Well into its second decade as a string ensemble, the Grammy-winning Ying Quartet is embarking on a journey with a new member.
Violin virtuoso Frank Huang, who has established a major international career, will join the quartet this summer. He will also be appointed associate professor of violin and associate professor of chamber music at the Eastman School of Music, where the ensemble is the string-quartet-in residence.
Since winning the 2003 Naumburg Violin Competition and the 2000 Hannover International Violin Competition, Huang has been in demand as a recital and orchestral soloist and as a chamber musician. He has appeared on national television, performed at prestigious music festivals, and released his first recording to critical acclaim.
As the new first violinist in the Ying Quartet, Huang is filling the chair of Timothy Ying, the original first violinist of the all-sibling quartet, who is moving with his family to Canada where he intends to start a business venture. Timothy and his siblings, cellist David, violist Phillip, and violinist Janet, are the ensemble’s founding members.
“The past two decades, performing with the Quartet and studying and then teaching at the Eastman School, have been inspirational and fulfilling,” said Timothy Ying. “These have been wonderful years, and I have enjoyed tremendous opportunities for professional growth and exploration. But I’m looking forward to having more time to spend with my family, and I have every expectation and belief that my successor will be extremely successful.”
The Ying Quartet will make the membership transition over the summer, with Huang’s first scheduled appearance with the ensemble occurring during the Bowdoin International Music Festival, which starts June 27 in Brunswick, Maine.
Huang began his musical studies on the piano at the age of 3 in his native China and started playing violin when he settled in the United States with his family four years later. At age of 11, he performed Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 with the Houston Symphony Orchestra. From the age of 15, he was winning international competitions, earning top prize awards in the Premio Paganini and Indianapolis competitions and Gold Medal Awards in the Kingsville, Irving M. Klein, and D’Angelo competitions. He enrolled in the pre-college program at the Cleveland Institute of Music when he was 16, where he studied with Donald Weilerstein and with whom he continued his studies while earning his Bachelor of Music degree from the school. Weilerstein was the founding first violinist of the Cleveland Quartet, considered one of the premier string quartets around the world.
As students at the Eastman School in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Yings also studied with members of the Cleveland Quartet, the school’s quartet-in-residence. The parallel in mentoring has provided a common musical heritage with their newest partner, said Phillip Ying.
“We are sympathetic in terms of how we talk about music and the sound we want to shape,” he said. “Frank has the musical skills and sensibility, the vision, passion, and personality to lead the Quartet into a new and exciting musical chapter.”
The Ying Quartet receives praise around the world for its high-caliber and affecting performances. The ensemble is also known for its view of chamber music as a meaningful part of everyday life, which has fueled the quartet’s diverse array of musical projects and its outreach to audiences in settings ranging from the White House to schools and the workplace. Its yearly performance schedule has the ensemble appearing in concerts and festivals around the world, including Aspen, Tanglewood, Ravinia, Caramoor, San Miguel De Allende, Kneisel Hall, and many others.
The Ying Quartet has also worked on collaborative projects at Symphony Space in New York City and with musical partners such as pianist Menahem Pressler and folk musician Mike Seeger, among others. Its album 4 + Four, recorded with the Turtle Island String Quartet, received a Grammy Award in 2005 for best classical crossover album.
Through its LifeMusic project, supported by the Institute for American Music, the Ying Quartet has commissioned established and emerging composers to produce a distinctively American string quartet repertory. Their first recording of LifeMusic works, The Ying Quartet Play LifeMusic, was named Editor’s Choice by Gramophone magazine. Their most recent recording of commissions is titled The United States and was released in 2007.
Deeply committed to the performance of chamber music, Huang has appeared at Marlboro, Ravinia, Caramoor, and the Seattle Chamber Music festivals, and was a member of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society Two program. He is the leader and concertmaster of Sejong, a conductorless string ensemble based in New York City, and was on the group’s recent performance and teaching tour in South Korea.
“The literature and repertoire for string quartet is amazing; I love the music so much,” said Huang. “Joining the Ying Quartet at this time in my career is a wonderful opportunity. I’m excited and feel that we’ll have a marvelous collaboration.”
Huang’s solo career has included performances on NPR, ABC, and CNN and with the Cleveland Orchestra, NDR-Radio Philharmonic Orchestra of Hannover and others, as well as appearances as guest concertmaster with the Houston Symphony and Toronto Symphony Orchestras.
“We are really of proud of everything that the Ying Quartet has accomplished with Tim as first violinist,” said Phillip. “At the same time, we’re looking forward to building on our past and pursuing new directions, and we have complete confidence in Frank as we forge a fresh and dynamic ensemble together.”
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