The Grammy-nominated recording artist and concert violinist ELMIRA DARVAROVA, former Concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (and the first and only woman-concertmaster in the MET’s history), has been a concert violinist since the age of four. Under the guidance of her father she started playing the violin at the age of three, gave her first recital at age four, and made her debut as a soloist with an orchestra at the age of eight. A prizewinner of several international competitions, she studied with Yfrah Neaman at the Guildhall School in London (on a British Council scholarship), at Indiana University in Bloomington with Josef Gingold (as one of his assistants), and, privately, with Henryk Szeryng. Performing with legendary cellist Janos Starker was a pivotal moment in her career, as Starker propelled and facilitated her escape from her then communist country, as well as her relocation to the United States.
Elmira Darvarova has led, as concertmaster, major American orchestras, such as the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Columbus Symphony, and the Grant Park Symphony in Chicago.She caused a sensation, becoming the first ever (and only) woman-concertmaster in the history of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. With the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra she has toured Europe, Japan and the United States, and was heard on the MET’s live weekly international radio broadcasts, television broadcasts, CDs and laser discs on the Sony, Deutsche Grammophon and EMI labels. At the MET she performed with some of the greatest conductors of our time, including the legendary Carlos Kleiber. She has also performed with the MET Chamber Ensemble at Carnegie Hall under James Levine.
Appearing in performances on five continents, she is well-versed in all kinds of genres, having performed opera at the MET, having shared the stage for symphonic and chamber concerts with giants of the music world such as James Levine, Janos Starker, Gary Karr, Samuel Ramey, Myron Bloom, Philip Myers, Anthony McGill and Pascal Rogé, as well as with tango and jazz legends such as Octavio Brunetti, Fernando Otero and David Amram, and in collaboration with Indian classical musicians – the superstars of the Sarod – Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and his sons Amaan & Ayaan Ali Khan. She has been concerto soloist with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Moscow State Symphony, Staatskapelle Weimar, Rochester Philharmonic, Columbus Symphony, Grant Park Symphony (Chicago), and numerous other orchestras on three continents.
She has performed on the world’s most prestigious stages, such as Carnegie Hall, Avery Fischer/David Geffen Hall, Alice Tully Hall and Symphony Space, New York City; Symphony Hall in Chicago, Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto; Suntory Hall, Bunka Kaikan and NHK Hall in Tokyo; Musikverein in Vienna, Cadogan Hall in London, Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, Koncerthuset in Stockholm, Victoria Hall in Geneva, Smetana Hall in Prague, Megaron in Athens, Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona, Alte Oper in Frankfurt, Kölner Philharmonie, Mumbai’s National Center for Performing Arts, Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall, Saint Petersburg Philharmonia, among many others.
Elmira Darvarova is the founder and leader of the New York Piano Quartet, performs with the Delphinium Trio, with the tango ensemble “Quinteto del fuego”, the newly-founded Amram Ensemble, and in a duo with world-renowned pianist/ composer, Grammy winner Fernando Otero. She is also President & Artistic Director of the New York Chamber Music Festival. She gives masterclasses and performs at music festivals worldwide, and she is jury president of international competitions in Verona and Plovdiv. She has premiered and recorded music by Franco Alfano, Joseph Marx, Erich Korngold, Vernon Duke, Amanda Maier, Georgy Catoire, René de Castera, Pierre de Bréville, Emile Goué, Nikolai Kapustin, Phillip Ramey, David Baker and Paul Chihara, among numerous others. She has recorded live for Radio Innsbruck in Austria, as well as for Radio Suisse Romande in Switzerland. Her recital at Bela Bartok’s Memorial House in Budapest was broadcast live throughout Europe. A documentary film about her life and career was shown on European TV. She has recorded numerous CDs for several labels. Two CDs with world premiere recordings of music by Franco Alfano were recently released to critical acclaim by Naxos. The French label Azur Classical has also released two CDs, with chamber music by René de Castéra (named a RECORD OF THE YEAR in 2015) and by Emile Goué (a war prisoner at a Nazi camp). With the New York Piano Quartet, she recorded two CDs for the Urlicht AudioVisual label, with works by Mahler, Korngold and Joseph Marx, as well as several newly commissioned piano quartets. Other new and upcoming releases include 2 CDs with legendary double bassist Gary Karr, of 18th Century baroque music by Handel, Barthelémon and Cervetto; an all-Poulenc CD with world-renowned French pianist Pascal Rogé; the Brahms Horn Trio with New York Philharmonic principal horn Philip Myers, and Amanda Maier’s rare violin sonata with renowned pianist Bryan Wagorn; a second Piazzolla Tangos CD with the late great tango pianist Octavio Brunetti ( “Desde Estudios A Tangos” , nominated for LATIN GRAMMY in 2015); a CD, inspired by and dedicated to Eugene Ysaÿe; an album with the “lost” violin works of Vernon Duke, featuring the world-premiere recording of Vernon Duke’s violin concerto, written for Heifetz 75 years ago (with conductor/pianist Scott Dunn and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra), a solo violin CD under the title “Violin Declamations from the Twilight of the Socialist Workers’ Paradise” for the Urlicht AudioVisual label, and a CD of masterpieces by Beethoven, Franck and Clara Schumann for the Affetto label. She is also featured on two world music albums with masterpieces by the legendary Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, based on traditional Indian Ragas – “Soul Strings” with the Sarod superstars Amaan & Ayaan Ali Khan (released on Affetto/Naxos and recently also released in the Indian subcontinent by Times Music), and “Amalgam” – to be released by Affetto/Naxos in June of 2016, recorded in collaboration not only with Amaan & Ayaan Ali Khan, but also with the participation of their legendary father – the iconic Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.
Elmira Darvarova’s CDs have won critical acclaim in such esteemed publications as The STRAD Magazine, Gramophone Magazine, Fanfare, American Records Guide, BBC Music Magazine. More than one of her CDs have been hailed by the prestigious British publication Music-Web International as “Recording of the Month” , and in 2015 Music-Web International selected the disc with world-premiere chamber music by René de Castéra (released by Azur Classical) as a RECORD OF THE YEAR 2015. Elmira Darvarova has been praised by Gramophone Magazine for her “ultra-impassioned performances”, and in The STRAD for her “intoxicating tonal beauty and beguilingly sensuous phrasing” and “silky-smooth voluptuous tone”. In May of 2015 Gramophone Magazine published on its first page an interview with Elmira Darvarova about her world-premiere recording of Vernon Duke’s violin concerto (written for Heifetz in 1940), which she recorded with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Scott Dunn.
Born into a family of well-known musicians in Shanghai, WEIGANG LI began studying the violin with his parents when he was 5 and went on to attend the Shanghai Conservatory at age 14. Three years later, in 1981, he was selected to go to study for one year at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music through the first cultural exchange program between the sister cities of Shanghai and San Francisco. in 1985, upon graduating from the Shanghai Conservatory, Weigang Li left China again to continue his studies at Northern Illinois University and later studied and taught at the Juilliard School as teaching assistant to the Juilliard Quartet. His teachers have included Shmuel Ashkenasi, Isadore Tinkleman, and Tan Shu-Chen.
Mr. Li was featured in the 1980 Oscar winning documentary film From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China. He made his solo debut at 17 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and has appeared as soloist with Shanghai Symphony, China Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony and Asian Youth Orchestra.
Weigang Li is a founding member and first violinist of the world-renowned Shanghai Quartet since 1983. Now in its 33rd season, the Shanghai Quartet has performed well over 2500 concerts in 35 countries; recorded 35 CD albums, including the complete Beethoven string quartets on Camerata label.
Weigang Li is on the faculty at Bard College Conservatory of Music in New York and Montclair State University in New Jersey. He also holds the title of guest concert-master of Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and guest professor at Shanghai Conservatory of Music and Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.
Mr. Li plays on a rare1600 Giovanni Paolo Maggini violin (ex-Burmester), which is on a generous loan from Mr. Rin Kei Mei.
Violinist YANG XU has garnered prizes in an array of international competitions, including the Yehudi Menuhin, Henryk Szeryng, Irving Klein, Novosibirsk, and the Kloster Schontal International Violin Competitions. Most recently, he was named the grand prizewinner of the Sorantin International Award for young artists. Mr. Xu joined the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra’s first violin section in 2008. Mr. Xu studied with Lina YU at the prestigious Shanghai Conservatory of Music in China, and earned his Bachelor of Music degree from the Oberlin Conservatory in 2003 where his teachers included Roland and Almita Vamos, and Kyung Sun Lee. He holds a Masters of Music degree from the Juilliard School, where his principal teacher was Masao Kawasaki. Yang Xu completed the Graduate Certificate program with soloist Midori Goto at University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, and is continually working privately with the world- renowned concert violinist.