The Collegian
Saturday, August 15, 2020

Shanghai Quartet returns to Booker Hall

The Shanghai Quartet took the stage in a tiny, black-box theater in University of Richmond’s Booker Hall of Music more than a decade ago. For two years after, the Shanghai Quartet pushed for a larger acoustical space. Booker Hall now offers much more than a cramped, black-box theater and has held many performances.

The Shanghai Quartet helped to renovate a full theater 10 years ago as the quartet-in-residence at Richmond. On Sunday, Jan. 25, the Shanghai Quartet, with special guest and famed violist Michael Tree, will return to campus. The quartet will perform in Camp Concert Hall within Booker Hall at 7:30 p.m.

The quartet was formed at the Shanghai Conservatory in 1983 and has toured major music centers within Europe, North America and Asia. The quartet focuses on “chamber music,” or music performed without a conductor. However, the quartet has shifted their focus to college campuses and away from Carnegie Hall.

Weigang Li, violinist and co-founder, described the changes he has seen in college campuses and explained the quartet’s inside joke. “We used to play for people our age. Now we are the same age as their parents. Soon, we could be their grandparents,” Li said.

In order to stay relevant within college campuses, the quartet combines a fresher modernity with traditional styles of music. “We have to be careful, because the younger audience thinks our modern take is ‘cool,’ but more conservative fans are offended,” Li said.

Traditional Chinese folk music, Western music and contemporary music are blended to form modern, yet stylistic medleys.

Members of the quartet said the addition of Tree only improved their overall creativity and sound. Tree is a prominent violist who has taught at The Julliard School, Manhattan School of Music and The Curtis Institute. He is also a friend of the quartet’s co-founding Li brothers.

Li expressed his excitement in working with Tree, his musical idol. Tree’s addition will allow the quartet to perform pieces composed for a quintet.

Tree said being the fifth musician was a great privilege and he was excited to perform at University of Richmond. “Every single audience in the world presents a challenge. It’s always a challenge to play great works reasonably well, but it’s our lucky job,” Tree said.

Beethoven and Johannes Brahms compositions are among those to be played by the Shanghai Quartet and Michael Tree. Modern twists and songs are also to be expected.

Contact reporter Holly Speck at

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