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East meets West when the Shanghai Quartet return

East meets West when the Shanghai Quartet return

For immediate release / 3 June 2005 / 429 words

Described by international media as musicians who give "the kind of performance composers dream of", chamber music superstars the Shanghai Quartet return to New Zealand in June. The quartet will present an 'East meets West' fusion of Chinese and Western music as part of Chamber Music New Zealand's 2005 season.

The members of the group are three quarters Chinese and one quarter American. Since their last visit in 1998, they have welcomed a new cellist, Nicholas Tzavaras. Nicholas's mother's East Harlem Violin Project was dramatised in the 1999 film "Music of the Heart", featuring Meryl Streep, Gloria Estefan and Angela Bassett.

This is not the first time the quartet have dabbled in the film industry. In 1979 violinist Weigang Li appeared in the Academy Award-winning documentary "From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China". The quartet also make an appearance in the latest Woody Allen film "Melinda and Melinda", to be released in New Zealand later this year.

The Shanghai Quartet are known worldwide for their passionate musicality and multicultural innovation. The group's concerts will feature works by Shostakovich, Brahms and Beethoven alongside Chinese folk songs. Second violinist, Yi-Wen Jiang has arranged Chinese melodies, titled ChinaSong, which reflect his childhood memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976),

"Through music, Chinese people always seemed able to find, and express their own happiness, sorrow, love, hope and things to cherish. I grew up with many of these pieces, and played some of them as solo works for violin and piano during the difficult days of the Cultural Revolution. The melodies are so beautiful and quite moving", says Yi-Wen. "I tried to blend the simplicity of an eastern melody with the complex, lush sounds of the string quartet, with the intent that Chinese music can be thoroughly enjoyed and performed internationally."

There will also be a rare opportunity to see the musicians working with some of New Zealand’s finest musicians when the quartet give masterclasses in Wellington. The masterclasses will be held at the Hunter Council Chamber at Victoria University of Wellington on Sunday 19 June at 6pm. Entry is $10.

The quartet have fond memories of their last visit to New Zealand and are looking forward to returning. "New Zealand was truly one of the most beautiful places the quartet has toured in the last 21 years and we have been touring in about twenty countries", says Yi-Wen. "Fantastic landscape, great food and warm people ... New Zealand is one of my favourite countries to visit and play concerts."

Chamber Music New Zealand acknowledges major funding from Creative New Zealand.



Napier - Friday 17 June, Century Theatre
Wellington - Saturday 18 June, Wellington Town Hall
Dunedin - Monday 20 June, Glenroy Auditorium
Christchurch - Tuesday 21 June, James Hay Theatre
Auckland - Wednesday 22 June, Auckland Town Hall

All concerts at 8pm


Programme 1 (Napier, Christchurch & Auckland)
SHOSTAKOVICH : String Quartet No 3 in F Opus 73
JIANG : Selections from ChinaSong
BRAHMS : String Quartet in A minor Opus 51 No 2

Programme 2 (Wellington & Dunedin)
BEETHOVEN : String Quartet in B flat Opus 18 No 6
JIANG : Selections from ChinaSong
BEETHOVEN : String Quartet in C sharp minor Opus 131


Weigang Li, violin, Yi-Wen Jiang, violin, Honggang Li, viola & Nicholas Tzavaras, cello.

The Shanghai Quartet formed in China at the Shanghai Conservatory in 1983 and are now based in the United States. The quartet strive to thrill and satisfy their audiences with passionate and engaging performances, while being true to the composer's intentions.

The Shanghai Quartet feature brothers Honggang and Weigang Li, who find that being siblings who work together is an advantage. "Like probably any other siblings or couples working in the same touring ensemble, we have our great advantages such as knowing each other so well and disadvantages such as knowing each other too well", says Weigang. "The good thing is we all know it and most of the time we use it as our advantage!"

The ensemble are known for their passionate musicality, brilliant technique, and multicultural innovation. The quartet aim to present an elegant meld of Eastern music with Western repertoire, performed to the highest artistic standard.

"I think we really believe that the greatest kind of music making happens when the performers are putting great composer's intention and music itself before their own. That is not to say it might lack personal involvement or individuality; on the contrary, because the performers become the true interpreter and recreate great music's original spiritual dimension, the printed music finally comes back alive and sounds absolutely convincing. That is what Shanghai Quartet constantly tries to achieve." - Yi-Wen Jiang, Shanghai Quartet

The quartet celebrated their 20th Anniversary in 2003 with a "Beethoven Project: East Meets West", performing the complete Beethoven quartet cycle in China. This was the first time the Beethoven cycle was performed in China.

The quartet currently serve as the quartet-in-residence at Montclair State University in New Jersey, performing and coaching chamber music and individual lessons. They are guest professors at the Shanghai Conservatory in China, and recently completed 13 years in residence at the University of Richmond. The quartet also coach the students of the New York Youth Symphony.

The group are looking forward to bringing cellist Nicholas Tzavaras to New Zealand for the first time.

"The three of us knew Nick was the one after we had played together for the first time for about three minutes. He had all the things the quartet was looking for: beauty of tone and phrasing, wide range of dynamics and colours, among many other quality" says the quartet's violinist, Weigang Li. "This is our fifth season with Nick already, and we all know the quartet has never sounded better."



"The Shanghai has a warm, wonderfully full-bodied sound, and the particular musical personality of each of the players is allowed to be heard."
The Denver Post

"The whole performance was superb...providing glowing solos and the slow movement rising to poetic heights."
The New York Times

"They punctuated sections with such captivating pauses that one dared not breathe until the music resumed. With balanced amounts of wit and drama, the quartet allowed [Haydn's] compositional genius to emerge..."
The Washington Post

"The Shanghai cohesively blends the music's pulsing rhythms and thrusting figurations with intelligence and grace."
The New York Times

"On just about every technical count - intonation, phrasing, instrumental balance, choice of tempo - the Shanghai's Beethoven was spot-on."
Richmond Times

===end of media information===

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