About Shanghai Quartet
The Shanghai Quartet distinguishes itself from almost every other active string quartet in its multicultural approach to repertory and performance, in its seemingly ubiquitous presence in an array of media -- concert, recording, television, radio, film -- and in the varied selection of guest artists with whom it has performed: Yo-Yo Ma, Ruth Laredo, Eugenia Zukerman, and Sharon Isbin. Its vast repertory covers many works by Asian-born composers like Bright Sheng, Toru Takemitsu, Zhou Long, Jienhong Wang, Cheng-Qian Xue, and Jing-Ping Zhang, as well as a mixture of 20th century works by composers like Tippett, Maxwell Davies, Reich, Roberto Sierra, Penderecki, Hovhaness, Ginastera, and jazz artist Dick Hyman. But it has also embraced much of the standard repertory, playing large chunks of the outputs of J.S. Bach and Beethoven and works by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Dvorák, Ravel, and many others. The Shanghai Quartet's concert schedule typically includes a geographical mixture of locales across Asia, Europe, the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand. It has made several appearances at Carnegie Hall and other major concert venues and has made more than 20 recordings for a variety of labels, including Delos, BIS, Camerata Records, and New Albion.
The Shanghai Quartet was formed at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1983. Members of the group are: violinists Weigang Li and Yi-Wen Jiang, violist Honggang Li, and cellist Nicholas Tzavaras. There have been several changes in personnel over the years, but brothers Weigang and Honggang Li are original members, and the latter Li initially served as the group's second violinist.
After forming, the Shanghai players, all students at the time, slowly built their reputation. By the 1990s they were generally ranked among the finest quartets before the public. The first recordings were issued in 1994: quartets by Mendelssohn and Grieg and a disc of mostly Hovhaness works, both on Delos.
One of the ensemble's best-selling CDs was the 2002 Delos title Chinasong, a collection of Chinese folk songs arranged by second violinist Yi-Wen Jiang. In 2005 the Shanghai players appeared in the Woody Allen film Melinda and Melinda, where they performed excerpts from the Bartók Quartet No. 4. Other major media appearances include PBS' Great Performance series. In 2007 Camerata Records issued the Shanghai Quartet's performances of the Beethoven Op. 18 quartets. This was the first in a projected series to cover the entire cycle of the Beethoven quartets.
The 2008-2009 season marked its 25th anniversary, which included residencies at the Santa Fe Chamber Music and the Oregon Bach festivals. By the 2011-2012 season, the group was serving as the quartet-in-residence at Monclair State University and ensemble-in-residence with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.