About
 

Over the past thirty-five years the Shanghai Quartet has become one of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles. The Shanghai’s elegant style, impressive technique, and emotional breadth allows the group to move seamlessly between masterpieces of Western music, traditional Chinese folk music, and cutting-edge contemporary works. Formed at the Shanghai Conservatory in 1983, soon after the end of China’s Cultural Revolution, the group came to the United States to complete its studies; since then the members have been based in the U.S. while maintaining a robust touring schedule at leading chamber music series throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

Highlights of the Shanghai Quartet’s 2019-20 season include performances at Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Freer Gallery (Washington, D.C.), and the Festival Pablo Casals in France, and Beethoven cycles for the Brevard Music Center, the Beethoven Festival in Poland, and throughout China. Other recent highlights include performances at the Wigmore Hall, the Budapest Spring Festival, and Suntory Hall, as well as collaborations with the NCPA and Shanghai Symphony Orchestras.

Among innumerable collaborations with eminent artists, they have performed with the Tokyo, Juilliard, and Guarneri Quartets; cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Lynn Harrell; pianists Menahem Pressler, Peter Serkin, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Yuja Wang; pipa virtuoso Wu Man; and the vocal ensemble Chanticleer. The Shanghai Quartet appears regularly at many of North America’s most prominent chamber music festivals, including annual performances for Maverick Concerts, the Brevard Music Center, and Music Mountain.

The Shanghai Quartet has a long history of championing new music, with a special interest in works that juxtapose the traditions of Eastern and Western music. The Quartet has commissioned works from an encyclopedic list of the most important composers of our time, including William Bolcom, Sebastian Currier, David Del Tredici, Tan Dun, Vivian Fung, Zhao Lin, Lowell Lieberman, Zhou Long, Marc Neikrug, Krzysztof Penderecki, Bright Sheng, Chen Yi, and Du Yun. The Quartet has a particularly close relationship with Krzysztof Penderecki; they premiered his third quartet — Leaves From an Unwritten Diary — at the composer’s 75th-birthday concert and repeated it again at both his 80th- and 85th-birthday celebrations. Forthcoming and recent commissions include new works from Judith Weir, Tan Dun, and Wang Lei, in addition to a new work from Penderecki.

The Shanghai Quartet has a prolific discography of more than thirty recordings, ranging from the complete cycle of Beethoven quartets (Camerata), to the Schumann and Dvorak piano quintet with Rudolf Buchbinder (Universal), to Zhou Long’s Poems from Tang for string quartet and orchestra with the Singapore Symphony (BIS). The Quartet has also recorded a collection of Chinese folk songs called Chinasong, featuring music arranged by Yi-Wen Jiang reflecting on his childhood memories of the Cultural Revolution in China. The Shanghai is currently recording the complete quartets of Bela Bartók (Camerata), to be released in 2020.

The Quartet’s fascinating history of television and film appearances includes a cameo playing Bartók’s Quartet No. 4 in Woody Allen’s film Melinda and Melinda, with their recording of the work featured on the film’s soundtrack; appearances on PBS’s Great Performances; and violinist Weigang Li’s role in the Academy Award-winning documentary From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China. The family of cellist Nicholas Tzavaras was the subject of the film Music of the Heart starring Meryl Streep; in addition, for the past five years filmmakers have traveled with the Shanghai around the world to produce a full-length documentary film, Behind the Strings, that will be released in 2019.

The Shanghai Quartet performs on four exceptional instruments by Stradivari, Guarneri, Goffriller, and Guadagnini, generously loaned through the Beare’s International Violin Society to honor the quartet’s thirty-fifth anniversary. Currently serving as Quartet-in-Residence at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University, the Shanghai Quartet also is the Ensemble-in-Residence with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and visiting guest professors of the Shanghai Conservatory and the Central Conservatory in Beijing. They are proudly sponsored by Thomastik-Infeld Strings and BAM Cases.

July 2019

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Images

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Videos
 
Press

The Strad

May 2019

The Boston Globe

June 7, 2015

The Washington Post

April 27, 2016

The New York Times

November 13, 2012

 
Projects
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Having known each other since they were students together at the Central Conservatory in Beijing, the Shanghai Quartet and Wu Man, the world’s leading pipa player, have reunited with a collaboration that blends traditional Chinese music and folk songs of their heritage to the modern western musical world. Their program, “A Night in Ancient and New China,” offers contemporary arrangements of Chinese folk tunes, a new multimedia work by Zhao Jiping in collaboration with his son Zhao Lin, traditional folk songs arranged by the violinist Yi-Wen Jiang, and solo pipa works by Wu Man.


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Since his gold medal win at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2009, 27-year-old Chinese pianist Haochen Zhang has captivated audiences with his deep musical sensitivity and spectacular virtuosity. In 2017 he received the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, and in 2018, he made his Carnegie Hall solo recital debut. The Shanghai Quartet offers a collaboration with Zhang featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Bright Sheng’s Dance Capriccio (a Shanghai Quartet commission) and the Brahms Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34.


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Tan Dun’s first string quartet, Feng-Ya-Song, was composed in 1982, shortly after Mao’s Cultural Revolution ended and when any non-government sanctioned art was shunned. Labeled “spiritual pollution,” during the Chinese regime’s crackdown on creativity in the arts, this piece launched Tan Dun’s storied career. The composer reworked and revised the quartet for the Shanghai, and the “new” piece was premiered in March 2019. The Shanghai Quartet has performed the work alongside Haydn and Beethoven, using the music as a bridge between two cultures as Tan Dun originally intended.


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Longtime friends of the legendary Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, the Shanghai Quartet was honored to commission Penderecki’s third string quartet, Leaves from an unwritten diary. The piece was premiered in Warsaw in 2008, and showed an evolution in the composer’s style from his previous two quartets. Now the great composer is at work on his fourth string quartet, again commissioned by the Shanghai and which will be premiered in the 2020-21 season.

 
Program Choices
 

2019-2020 Program Choices

Program I: Folk Inspired
Smetana: Quartet No. 1 in E minor, “From My Life”
Selections from “ChinaSong” (arr. Yi-Wen Jiang)
*****
Bartók: Quartet No. 1

ChinaSong is a collection of Chinese folk songs arranged for string quartet by the Shanghai Quartet’s violinist, Yi-Wen Jiang.

Program II: From Vienna with Love
Webern: Langsamer Satz
Mozart: Quartet in C major, K. 465, “Dissonance”
*****
Schubert: Quartet in G major, D. 887

Program III: True Inspirations
Bartók: Quartet No. 1
*****
Beethoven: Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op. 131

2020-2021 Program Choices

Program I: All-Beethoven
Quartet in D major, Op. 18, No. 3
Quartet in F minor, Op. 95, “Serioso”
*****
Quartet in A minor, Op. 132

Program II: From Vienna with Love
Haydn: Quartet in G minor, Op. 74, No. 3, “Rider”
Tan Dun: Feng Ya Song (2019 version - commissioned by the Shanghai Quartet)
*****
Smetana: Quartet No. 1 in E minor, “From My Life”

Program III: True Inspirations
Bartók: Quartet No. 1
Zhou Long: Song of the Ch’in
*****
Grieg: Quartet in No. 1 in G minor, Op. 27

Additional Options
Selections from “ChinaSong” (arr. Yi-Wen Jiang)
ChinaSong is a collection of Chinese folk songs arranged for string quartet by the Shanghai Quartet’s violinist, Yi-Wen Jiang.
Penderecki: Quartets Nos. 2, 3, or 4
Zhou Long: Poems from Tang
Ravel: Quartet in F major
Schubert: Quartet in D minor, D. 810, “Death and the Maiden”
Dvorak: Quartet in F major, Op. 96, “American”