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East meets west when the Shanghai Quartet performs

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

The four musicians of the Shanghai Quartet continually raise the bar on their elegant style to fuse the delicacy of Eastern music with the emotional span of the Western canon. The result is a musical stew, hearty and delicious, filled with Chinese folk music, European masterworks and the best of contemporary repertoire.

On Thursday, audiences are invited to taste of the quartet's work when it appears onstage at the University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Chamber music enthusiasts will be presented with Beethoven's String Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, Op.132 and Bartok's Quartet No. 4, impeccably performed in the classical style. But these four artists take it a step further when they present selections from their album "Chinasong," a collection of Chinese folk songs arranged by the quartet's second violinist, Yi-Wen Jiang.

"These are some of the [pieces] we grew playing and listening to, but we left China in 1985 and didn't touch [them] for about 20 years," said the quartet's first violinist, Weigang Li. "Now we play them for a wide range of audiences ... in America, in Europe and also in Asian countries. Now 'Chinasong' turns out to be one of the most popular things we have ever done. We've made about 30 CDs in over 30 years, but this one sells more than all the others combined."

Onstage
The Shanghai Quartet
» Where: University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University Boulevard and Stadium Drive, College Park
» When: 8 p.m. Thursday
» Info: $10 to $40; 301-405-ARTS (2787); claricesmithcenter.umd.edu

Not only has the quartet been around since its formation at the Shanghai Conservatory in 1983, but the same four have remained together after all this time. In addition to the violinists, the group includes Honggang Li on viola and Nicholas Tzavaras on cello. The four have worked with the world's most eminent classical artists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Lynn Harrell and Peter Serkin, while touring the world's major music centers. They book about 100 concerts each year.

"We're lucky to have the amount of success we've had, and we go one year at a time," Weigang Li continued. "We still really love what we do and treat the music as great literature."

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