Concert Preview: Shanghai String Quartet

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, March 3, 2005

The Shanghai String Quartet likes to serve up a varied musical menu at their concerts.  This Saturday’s performance includes Dvorak’s ‘American’ Quartet, paired with a selection of Chinese folk songs.  Cellist Nickolas Sevaris says these folk melodies have proven very popular with audiences.

Part of the reason is there’s an exoticism, but also they’re very, very kind of Western almost Debussy like; beautiful melodies and very optimistic considering when they were composed during the Cultural Revolution.

Violinist Yi-When Jiang, who arranged the folk songs for the quartet, grew up during the Cultural Revolution.

And even though it was during that harsh period of China, I don’t think from this music you can actually hear those suffering; but it just depicts people’s daily life. I guess they still really love the nature and their homeland.

Antonin Dvorak had similar yearnings for home when the Czech composer wrote his String Quartet in F while living in America. This piece was also inspired by folk melodies.  And that, says Nickolas Sevaris, brings the two distant musical cultures closer together.

There’re so many similarities. Actually some people think the Chinese folk songs sound just like Dvorak, and perhaps it’s the other way: perhaps Dvorak sounds like the Chinese folk songs.

You can make the comparison yourself this Saturday when the Shanghai String Quartet performs at the State Theatre in Modesto. Michael Frost, KXJZ News.