The Shanghai String Quartet will make its first local appearance tonight as part of the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City concert series.
On the program will be three works: Schubert's Quartet in E flat major; Beethoven's "Rasoumovsky" Quartet in E minor, op. 59, no. 2; and a new work written for the Shanghai Quartet, the "Poems from Tang," by Chinese composer Zhou Long.James Wilson, cellist of the quartet, says, "This work consists of four separate pieces based on poems from the Tang dynasty. It's an exciting piece, since Zhou uses some interesting sound effects that make our instruments sound like traditional Chinese instruments."
As to the composer, Wilson says that "Zhou is from Beijing, but he left China years ago and lives in New York now. He's a good friend of ours, and we commissioned this work from him a few years ago."
Wilson adds that "there are a lot of composers in China writing Western classical music. It's well-received, too, especially in the larger cities of China. And, for example, cities like Shanghai, which have had a long history of Western influence, there is a well-established tradition of Western music.
"In fact," Wilson continues, "Asia is probably the biggest market for Western classical music today. Opera and symphonic music is very big there, but for some reason not chamber music."
Asia is also one of the places where the Shanghai Quartet loves to perform. "We'll be touring Korea and Japan in May," Wilson says. "We especially enjoy playing in Korea. Our Western music is extremely popular there."
The fact that Korea is close to their hearts can be seen by the fact that they've donated their services to hold concerts there, to show support for the country during its economic crisis. "It was just great," Wilson says. "Everyone just worked together to make this happen."
The group is also busy in the recording studio. They just released an all-Brahms album on the Delos label featuring two mainstays of the chamber music repertoire: the String Quartet in B flat major and the Viola Quintet in F major, with the Guarneri Quartet's first violinist, Arnold Steinhart, playing second viola.
Wilson, who joined the Shanghai Quartet eight years ago, is enthusiastic about coming to Utah. "This will be our first concert ever in Salt Lake City, and we're thrilled about it. We're just flying out to do the concert, and then flying back home again."
The concert will be at 8 p.m. in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts Auditorium on the University of Utah campus. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $5 for students and can be purchased at the door.