Over the past forty years the Shanghai Quartet has become one of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles. The Shanghai Quartet’s elegant style, impressive technique, and emotional breadth allows the group to move seamlessly between Western masterpieces, traditional Chinese folk music, and cutting-edge contemporary works. Formed at the Shanghai Conservatory in 1983, the group came to the United States to complete its studies and, until recently, the members were based in the U.S. while maintaining a robust international touring schedule at leading chamber-music series throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.
Recent performance highlights include performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, 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. The ensemble also frequently performs at Wigmore Hall, the Budapest Spring Festival, Suntory Hall, and has longstanding collaborations with China’s NCPA and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, of which the quartet was recently announced as artist-in-residence for the 2021-2022 season.
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, Lowell Lieberman, Zhou Long, Marc Neikrug, Krzysztof Penderecki, Bright Sheng, Chen Yi, and Du Yun. The Quartet had a particularly close relationship with Krzysztof Penderecki; they premiered his third quartet – Leaves from an Unwritten Diary – at the composer’s 75thbirthday 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, Wang Lei, and Marcos Balter.
A diverse array of media projects run the gamut from a cameo appearance playing Bartók’s String Quartet No. 4 in Woody Allen’s film Melinda and Melinda to PBS television’s Great Performances series. Violinist Weigang Li appeared in the documentary From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China, and the family of cellist Nicholas Tzavaras was the focus of the film Music of the Heart, starring Meryl Streep. The Shanghai Quartet is the subject of a full-length documentary film, Behind the Strings, that was released in the fall of 2020.
For just under two decades the Shanghai Quartet served as Quartet-in-Residence at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University in NJ. In the fall of 2020, the Shanghai Quartet returned to China to join the resident faculty of the Tianjin Juilliard School.