The Shanghai Quartet is a string quartet that formed in 1983. The quartet is made up of four members: first violinist Weigang Li, second violinist Yi-Wen Jiang, violist Honggang Li, and cellist Nicholas Tzavaras. The group’s tours have included North America, South America, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. Among their performances, the Shanghai Quartet has developed a long list of performance collaborators including Yo-Yo Ma, David Soyer, Eugenia Zukerman, Sharon Isbin, Ruth Laredo, Arnold Steinhardt, and Chanticleer.
The group was formed in 1983 at the Shanghai Conservatory in China. In 1984 the quartet was selected by the Ministry of Culture (China) to compete at the Portsmouth International Quartet Competition in England where they won 2nd prize. The group then left China in 1985 to study at Northern Illinois University with the Vermeer Quartet until 1987. The Shanghai Quartet made its New York debut in 1987 at Town Hall. In 1989 they became the quartet-in-residence at the University of Richmond. In 2003 the quartet became Distinguished Visiting Artists of the school’s Modlin Center for the Arts, giving concerts during the Great Performances season from September to May. They then were established as artists-in-residency at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University in New Jersey where they are currently located. The four members are also visiting guest professors at the Shanghai Conservatory and Central Conservatory of Music in China where they share in master-classes what they have learned in America.
Weigang Li is a native of Shanghai and began studying the violin at age five under the instruction of his parents. He began formal music education at the Shanghai Conservatory when he was 14 years old. In 1981 he studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music through an exchange program with the Shanghai Conservatory. Upon finishing his studies in 1985, Weigang became an assistant violin professor at Shanghai. He then left china to study at Northern Illinois University. From 1987 to 1989 he studied at the Juilliard School and was a teaching assistant to the Juilliard Quartet. Weigang has been the first violinist for the Shanghai Quartet since its inception.
Weigang has been a soloist with the Asian Youth Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. He appears in the film “From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China”. Weigang currently is on the faculty at the Bard College Conservatory of Music.
Yi-Wen Jiang was born in Beijing, China and began studying violin at age six with his father. He gave his concerto debut at the Central Opera House in Beijing when he was only 17 years old. In 1981 Yi-Wen won first prize at the First China Youth Violin Competition and was then accepted to study music at the Central Conservatory in Beijing. In 1985 he left China for the United States to study at the St. Louis Conservatory. He also spent summers in Dallas taking master classes with Pinchas Zukerman. In 1990 he went to Rutgers to work with Arnold Steinhardt of the Guarneri Quartet. Yi-Wen became the second violinist for the Shanghai Quartet in 1994 when past violist Zheng Wang left the ensemble and current violist Honggang Li switched from second violin to viola.
Yi-Wen has been a soloist with the Victoria Symphony and Montreal Symphony. He has been appeared on NBC and PBS television specials. He has been on radio specials for National Public Radio, CPB-Beijing, WQXR-New York, and KFUO-FM-St. Louis. Yi-Wen has won prizes at the Mae M. Whitaker and Montreal competitions and has collaborated with Alexander Scheider, Michael Tree, Jaime Laredo, and Lynn Harrell on performances. He has recorded for the label Red Corporation of China.
Honggang Li began his musical studies playing the violin like his brother Weigang, and formed the quartet with him He first attended the Beijing Conservatory and then the Shanghai Conservatory where he became a faculty member in 1984. Later in the United States, he became a teaching assistant at the Juilliard School in New York City. Honggang was the original first violinist for the Shanghai Quartet and later switched to second violin. When violist Zheng Wang left the group they had trouble finding a replacement violist, and  upon accepting Yi-Wen Jiang, who the Li brothers had already known, as the second violinist, Honggang learned to play the viola in order to complete the quartet.
Honggang has been a soloist with the Shanghai Philharmonic and the Shanghai Conservatory Orchestra. In 1987 he was given a prize at the Premio Paolo Borciani Competition in Italy by Elisa Pegreffi.
Nicholas Tzavaras is the only American member of the Shanghai Quartet, having grown up in Harlem in New York City. He studied cello at the New England Conservatory and at the State University of New York Stony Brook. As a graduate student, he began a cello program for the Opus 118 Music Center in East Harlem. He is now an advisory board member for the program. Nicholas was previously on the faculty at the University of Richmond and is currently the string department coordinator and cello professor at Montclair State University. He became the cellist for the Shanghai Quartet in 2000 when past cellist James Wilson left the ensemble.
Nicholas has toured with “Musicians from Marlboro” and Madonna. He has made appearances on MTV, VH1, David Letterman, and at the White House to perform for President Bill Clinton. He has recorded for labels including Delos, BIS Records, Camerata, and New Albion. He has appeared in the Academy Award nominated documentary “Small Wonders” and in the major motion picture “Music of the Heart” with Meryl Streep.
|1994||Grieg and Mendelssohn Quartets||Delos||Mendelssohn Quartet No.2 In A Major and Grieg Quartet In G Minor, Op.27|
|1994||Spirit Murmur||Delos||Works by Alan Hovhaness including Three Bagatelles for String Quartet Op. 30, String Quartet No. 1 Op. 8, and Suite from String Quartet No. 2|
|1995||Music for a Sunday Morning||Delos||Eugenia Zukerman and Anthony Newman, includes Ginastera Impresiones de la Puna, J.S. Bach Overture Suite No. 2 in B-Minor BWV 1067|
|1995||Heigh-Ho Mozart (only tracks)||Delos|
|1996||Mozart’s Last Two Quartets||Delos||Includes Quartet No. 22 B-Flat Major K. 589 and Quartet No. 23 in F Major K. 590|
|1997||The Hovhaness Collection (only tracks)||Delos|
|1998||Shanghai Quartet Plays Brahms||Delos||Arnold Steinhardt, includes Quartet no. 3 op. 67 Quintet no. 1 op. 88|
|1998||Flowing Stream||Delos||Min Xiao-Fen, includes Zhou Long Chinese Folk Songs (arr.) and Poems from Tang|
|2000||Brahms Piano Quartets||Arabesque Recordings||Ruth Laredo, includes Quartet No. 1 in G Minor Op. 25, Quartet No. 3 in C Minor Op. 60, and Quartet No. 2 in A Major Op. 26|
|2001||Shanghai Quartet performs Ravel and Bridge||Delos||Includes Maurice Ravel String Quartet in F Major, Frank Bridge Quartet in E Minor, and Frank Bridge Novelletten for String Quartet|
|2002||Chinasong||Delos||Includes traditional and popular Chinese folk songs arranged for string quartet by Yi-Wen Jiang. Also features flautist Eugenia Zukerman.|
|2003||Bright Sheng: Silent Temple||Bis||Includes New Music from Composer Bright Sheng for Piano Trio as well as music for piano, strings, and pipa, a traditional Chinese instrument.|
|2004||Beethoven: The Razumovsky Quartets||Delos||Includes Beethoven String Quartet No. 8 Op. 59, nr. 2 in E Minor, and No. 9 Op. 59 nr. 3 in C Major.|
|2005||Melinda and Melinda Soundtrack (only tracks)||Milan Records||Soundtrack for a Woody Allen Film, String Quartet No. 4|
|2005||Dvorák: String Quartet No. 12 "The American"; Mendelssohn: String Octet||Camerata|
|2007||Beethoven: String Quartets||CD Accord|
|2007||Beethoven: String Quartets||Camerata||Op. 18, Nos. 1-3|
|2008||Beethoven: String Quartets||Camerata||Op. 18, Nos. 4-6|
- "Shanghai Quartet makes Worcester Debut Feb. 6." Telegram & Gazette [Worcester] 27 Jan. 1993: C4. ProQuest. Web. 4 Oct. 2009.
- ""We'd like to jump-start the China Chamber Music Scene." Financial Times [London] 24 Oct. 2003: 14. ProQuest. Web. 8 Oct. 2009.
- "Have Strings, Will Travel Founded in China and based in Virginia, the 11-year-old Shanghai Quartet tries to raise its recognition level in a crowded marketplace." Los Angeles Times 26 Feb. 1995: 4. ProQuest. Web. 4 Oct. 2009.
- "Fisk, quartet are splendid // Shanghai Quartet and guitarist are a beautiful blend." Telegram & Gazette [Worcester] 20 Nov. 1998: C3. ProQuest. Web. 4 Oct. 2009.
- "Shanghai Quartet to Remain at the University of Richmond as Distinguished Visiting Artists" Archived 2007-06-25 at Archive.is
- "Music Reviews; Shanghai Quartet Blends Old, New for Unified Sound." Los Angeles Times 21 Nov. 1996: 10. ProQuest. Web. 4 Oct. 2009.