Renowned for its passionate musicality, impressive technique, and multicultural innovations, the Shanghai Quartet has become one of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles. Its elegant style melds the delicacy of Eastern music with the emotional breadth of Western repertoire, traversing musical genres from traditional Chinese folk music to masterpieces of Western music and cutting-edge contemporary works.
Formed in 1983, the quartet has worked with the world’s most distinguished artists and regularly tours the major music centers of Europe, North America, and Asia. Recent festival performances include the International Music Festivals of Seoul and Beijing, the Festival Pablo Casals in France, Beethoven Festival in Poland, and the Yerevan Festival in Armenia, as well as concerts in all regions of North America. The quartet has appeared at Carnegie Hall in chamber performances and with orchestra. Among innumerable collaborations, the quartet members have performed with the Tokyo, Juilliard, and Guarneri quartets, cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Lynn Harrell, pianists Menahem Pressler, Yuja Wang, Peter Serkin and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and pipa virtuosa Wu Man. They have been regular performers at North America’s leading chamber music festivals, including the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Chamberfest Ottawa, and Maverick Concerts.
The quartet has a history of championing new music. Its 30th anniversary season brought new works from David Del Tredici, Carl Vine, Jeajoon Ryu, Lei Liang, and Robert Aldridge. Its 25th anniversary season featured Penderecki’s String Quartet No. 3: Leaves From an Unwritten Diary, Chen Yi’s From the Path of Beauty, commissioned with Chanticleer, and works by Vivian Fung and jazz pianist Dick Hyman. The Penderecki premiered at the composer’s 75th birthday concert in Poland, followed by US premieres at Montclair State University and the Modlin Center and was featured again at the composer’s 80th birthday celebration in 2013. Chen Yi’s From the Path of Beauty, premiered in San Francisco, with performances at Tanglewood and Ravinia, Beijing and Shanghai. Other recent premieres include works by Bright Sheng, Zhou Long, Dan Welcher, Du Yun, and in 2016, Zhao Lin’s Red Lantern for pipa, based on the music of his father, Zhao Ji-Ping. The tradition continues with a commission from William Bolcom to be premiered in spring 2017.
The Shanghai Quartet has an extensive discography of more than 30 recordings. Delos released the quartet’s most popular disc, Chinasong: a collection of Chinese folk songs arranged by Yi-Wen Jiang. The complete Beethoven String Quartets can be heard on Camerata’s set, released in 2009.
Media projects range from Bartók’s String Quartet No. 4 in Woody Allen’s film Melinda and Melinda to PBS television’s Great Performances. Weigang Li appeared in the documentary From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China, and the family of Nicholas Tzavaras was the subject of the film Music of the Heart. The quartet is the subject of a documentary film, Behind the Strings, currently in production.
The Shanghai Quartet is quartet-in-residence at Montclair State University, ensemble-in-residence with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and visiting guest professors of the Shanghai Conservatory and the Central Conservatory in Beijing.