All posts by Susan Spiegel

Shanghai Quartet 2The Shanghai Quartet

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 Eastern music with Western repertoire, traversing musical genres from folk music to great masterpieces, to cutting-edge contemporary works. Formed in 1983, the Quartet regularly tours the major music centers of Europe, North America and Asia, from the International Music Festivals of Seoul and Beijing to the Festival Pablo Casals in France, and the Beethoven Festival in Poland.

The Quartet has appeared at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. They have collaborated 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 virtuoso Wu Man.

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. The Shanghai Quartet has an extensive discography of more than 30 recordings including Chinasong – a collection of Chinese folk songs arranged by Yi-Wen Jiang. The complete Beethoven String Quartets can be heard on Camerata, released in 2009. Media projects range from an on-screen appearance in Woody Allen’s 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, and sponsored by Thomastik-Infeld Strings.

Weigang Li, violin
Born into a family of well-known musicians in Shanghai, Weigang Li began studying the violin with his parents when he was 5 and went on to attend the Shanghai Conservatory at age 14. In 1985, upon graduating from the Shanghai Conservatory, Weigang Li left China to continue his studies at Northern Illinois University and later studied and taught at the Juilliard School as teaching assistant to the Juilliard Quartet. His teachers have included Shmuel Ashkenasi, Isadore Tinkleman, and Tan Shu-Chen. Mr. Li was featured in the 1980 Oscar winning documentary film From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China. He made his solo debut at 17 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and has appeared as soloist with Shanghai Symphony, China Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony, Asian Youth Orchestra. Weigang Li is a founding member and first violinist of the Shanghai Quartet since 1983. In its 31th season, the Shanghai Quartet has performed well over 2000 concerts in 30 countries; recorded 34 CD albums, including 7-discs cycle of complete Beethoven string quartets on Camerata label. Weigang Li is a violin professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey and Bard College Conservatory of Music in New York. He also holds the title of guest concert-master of Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and guest professor at Shanghai Conservatory and Central Conservatory in Beijing. Mr. Li plays on the 1600 Giovanni Paolo Maggini violin (ex-Burmester), which is on a generous loan from Mr. Rin Kei Mei.

Yi-Wen Jiang, violin
Violinist Yi-Wen Jiang was born into a musical family in Beijing where both parents were professional musicians. Beginning his violin studies with his father at age six, Jiang made his concerto debut at the age of 17 with the Central Opera House Orchestra in Beijing where he played the Prokofiev D Major Concerto Opus 19. In 1985, after receiving a full scholarship from McDonnell-Douglas, Jiang came to the U.S. to study with Taras Gabora and Michael Tree. In 1990, with the support of the Ken Boxley Foundation, he went to Rutgers University to work with Arnold Steinhardt of the Guarneri Quartet. Other teachers included Gérard Poulet and Pinchas Zuckerman. As a prizewinner at the Montreal International Competitions, he appeared as a soloist with the Victoria Symphony and Montreal Symphony. Jiang has recorded for the Record Corporation of China. As a composer, Jiang has arranged over 50 pieces for string quartet and other instruments, many pieces composed with Eastern repertoire and Western influence. In addition to his extensive touring and recordings schedule, Jiang maintains a close relationships with his students. Jiang teaches at Montclair State University and the Bard College Conservatory of Music. He is also guest professor at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and the Shanghai Conservatory. When not performing, composing or teaching, Jiang enjoys photography, and food & wine.

Honggang Li, viola
Honggang Li is the founding member Shanghai Quartet, now in it’s 30th season, has performed over two thousand concerts in 30 countries and can be heard on more than 30 CD albums. Mr. Li began studying the violin with his parents at age seven. When the Central Conservatory of music in Beijing reopened in 1977 after the Cultural Revolution, Mr. Li was selected to attend from a group of over five hundred applicants. He continued his training at the Shanghai Conservatory and co- founded the Shanghai Quartet with his brother Weigang while in his senior year in the conservatory. The quartet soon became the first Chinese quartet to win a major international chamber music competition (the London International) and came to the US in 1985. He received MM of North Illinois University and served as a teaching assistant at the Juilliard School in New York. In 1987, he won the special prize ( a 1757 DeCable violin) given by Elisa Pegreffi of Quartetto Italiano at the First Paolo Borciani International Competition in Italy. Mr. Li is currently also an artist-in-residence and faculty at Montclair State University and held the same title at University of Richmond in Virginia from 1989 to 2003. He has been the guest professor of both conservatories of Shanghai and Beijing. Mr. Li is also the guest principle violist of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra since 2009.

Nicholas Tzavaras, cello
A Native of Spanish Harlem in New York City, cellist Nicholas Tzavaras has toured the globe as a chamber musician, soloist and educator for the past two decades. Since 2000, Mr. Tzavaras has been the cellist of the internationally renowned Shanghai Quartet. Formerly on the faculty of the University of Richmond, Mr. Tzavaras is currently the coordinator of the String Department and artist in residence at Montclair State University’s John J. Cali School of Music. He is also guest professor at the Shanghai and Central Conservatories of China.  In the fall of 2016 Tzavaras joined the faculty of the Longy School of Music in Boston. Mr. Tzavaras began the violin at age 2 with his mother, Roberta Guaspari and moved to the cello when he was 6.  A graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, he went on to receive degrees from the New England Conservatory and the State University of New York at Stonybrook where his cello teachers were Laurence Lesser and Timothy Eddy.  Mr. Tzavaras can be seen in the Academy Award nominated documentary “Small Wonders,” the motion picture “Music of the Heart” starring Meryl Streep and with the Shanghai Quartet in Woody Allen’s “Melinda Melinda.” When he is not with his cello, Mr. Tzavaras is an avid cyclist, occasional triathlete, enthusiastic but unfortunately average chess player and, perhaps most importantly, a challenged father of three children all under the age of ten.

Kevin_RivardKevin Rivard

Known for his “delicious quality of tone” Kevin Rivard is the Co-Principal Horn of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, and Principal Horn of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.

As a soloist and chamber musician, he has performed with the New Century Chamber Orchestra, Music@Menlo, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Winner of numerous solo competitions, he was awarded Grand Prize at the 2008 Concours International d’Interpretation Musicale in Paris, the 2007 International Horn Competition of America, the 2003 Farkas Solo Horn competition, and in 2001 was a Presidential Scholar in the Arts.

Mr. Rivard has served as guest Principal Horn with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra and has performed with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. He was also a featured soloist with the Houston Symphony. Previous positions include the Colorado Symphony and Florida Orchestra. A Juilliard graduate, Mr. Rivard spends his summers performing with the Aspen Music festival and Music@Menlo, and previously has appeared with the Santa Fe Opera and Verbier Music Festival.

As one of the horn professors at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Mr. Rivard loves teaching and inspiring the next generation of horn players. Every year he volunteers at local schools performing for youth, hoping to give as many children as possible the opportunity to enjoy live music.

Photo credit: Bernard Mindich
Photo credit: Bernard Mindich

Paul Neubauer

Violist Paul Neubauer’s exceptional musicality and effortless playing led the New York Times to call him “a master musician.”

This season he will appear in recital and with orchestras in the U.S. and Asia including his Chicago Symphony subscription debut with Riccardo Muti performing Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with violinist Robert Chen. His recording of the Aaron Kernis Viola Concerto with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, a work he premiered with the St. Paul Chamber, Los Angeles Chamber, and Idyllwild Arts orchestras and the Chautauqua Symphony will be released on Signum Records.

Appointed principal violist of the New York Philharmonic at age 21, he has appeared as soloist with over 100 orchestras including the New York, Los Angeles, and Helsinki philharmonics; National, St. Louis, Detroit, Dallas, San Francisco, and Bournemouth symphonies; and Santa Cecilia, English Chamber, and Beethovenhalle orchestras. He has premiered viola concertos by Bartók (revised version of Viola Concerto), Friedman, Glière, Jacob, Kernis, Lazarof, Müller-Siemens, Ott, Penderecki, Picker, Suter, and Tower and has appeared on CBS’s Sunday Morning, and A Prairie Home Companion. He was an Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient and the first prizewinner of the Whitaker, D’Angelo and Lionel Tertis International Competitions and has been featured in Strad, Strings and People magazine.

A two-time Grammy nominee, he has recorded on numerous record labels including Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, RCA Red Seal and Sony Classical and in 2016, he released a solo album of music recorded at Music@Menlo. He is on the faculty of The Juilliard School and Mannes College.