Gunter Theatre, Greenville, SC by Ann Hicks
From The Greenville News
Friday January 14, 2000
by Ann Hicks
The sheer beauty of the Shanghai Quartet's performance
Thursday night at
the Peace Center's Gunter Theatre gave the audience a
Violinists Weigang Li and Yiwen Jiang, violist Honggang
Li and cellist James Wilson drew their elegant music
from some of the greatest Western quartet literature -
across the 18th century and into the 20th.
was the second Greenville appearance of these highly
talented young musicians, who glided with obvious
mastery from Hayden to Shostakovich to Dvorak with
In all three pieces their entrances were crisp,
distinct, and precise - the beauty of each composition
made memorable by their talented performance.
They opened with Hayden's Quartet in C Major Op.
74, marked by childlike cheerfulness, a lighthearted
piece of music clearly written for entertainment. One
would imagine that it was as well received by its
audience in the late 1700's as it was Thursday night.
The third movement minuet with its quick-changing
dynamics was positivly foot-tapping stuff. The
Shanghai had fun with it.
An indescribable chasm exists between the lives of
the happy composer Hayden and the tragically mistreated
Dimitri Shostakovich, whose Quartet No. 6 in G Major
Op. 101 took us into the 20th century.
Shostakovich, composing during the savage days of
Stalin's iron rule, nevertheless demonstrated that
genius prevailes against all odds. During that time if
ideological oppression and systematic persecution of
artists, he composed ceaslessly.
Op, 101, written in 1956, three years after Stalin
died, is one of his lighter compositions.
Violist Honggang Li began the first movement,
Allegretto, engergetically calling on Wilson's cello.
Soon, they were joined by deuling violinists, Yiwen
Jiang and Weigang Li.
In this piece there is a lovely chaconne that soars
with optimism and light, as if the composer took a deep
breath and could see the clouds part, if only briefly.
In the third movement - Lento; Allegretto - he slipped
back into a brooding finale, played by the Shanghai
with just the right measure of lyricism.
After intermission, unexpected levity arose when,
into the first few bars of Dvorak's Quartet in A-flat
Major, Op. 105, Wilson's cello string broke with a loud
He dashed for the side entrance off stage. In the
ensuing quiet moments, Honggang Li broke into a warm
smile and, turing to the audience, gave us a brief
synopsis of what preceeded the composition of Op. 105.
Dvorak was deperately homesick -
so homesick that he did not finish this piece until he
was safely back in his Czech homeland among the people
he loved. Although he wrote the first two movements of
this brilliantly textured piece in the United States, it
is the last two movements that are truly the joy of
this composition for musician and audience alike -
glowing with Dvoraks happy disposition.
Come back, Shanghai - give us a reprise next year.
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