Harmonious siblings form a noted ensemble

Yings: Three brothers and their sister constitute a leading chamber group that is to perform Saturday at Howard Community College.

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January 04, 2001|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If the members of the Ying Quartet sound as if they've been playing together all their lives, it's because they have.

In one of the most remarkable examples of artistic togetherness the music world has seen in years, Timothy, Janet, Phillip and David Ying, four 30-something siblings born and raised in Chicago, have pooled their artistic resources to become one of the hottest chamber music ensembles on today's international circuit.

A past winner of the Naumburg Chamber Music Award and the first recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant awarded to support chamber music in rural America, the Ying Quartet will perform at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre on Saturday under the auspices of Columbia's Candlelight Concert Society. Quartets by Schubert and Tchaikovsky, along with three works by contemporary Chinese composers, will be performed at the concert, which will begin at 8 p.m.

Violinists Timothy and Janet Ying, violist Phillip Ying and cellist David Ying have established national and international reputations in European capitals and at American festivals such as those at Tanglewood, Aspen, Caramoor and Brevard.

But, through features published in the New York Times and Strad magazine, along with coverage on "CBS Sunday Morning," the quartet is best known for spending a year as an ensemble-in-residence in the farm town of Jesup, Iowa, population 2,000.

As recipients of the grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Yings lived in Jesup for two years, performing throughout the community for audiences of all sizes in schools, businesses, churches, civic meetings and private homes.

Since that two-year hitch in mid-America a decade ago, the quartet has relished performing in settings as diverse as Carnegie Hall, the White House, the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., where it has been designated "Quartet in Residence," hospitals and juvenile prisons.

The Yings' musical collaborators have included such luminaries as pianists Menahem Pressler and Gilbert Kalish and cellists Lawrence Dutton and Paul Katz. Pianist Jon Nakamatsu, winner of the 1997 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, is another frequent collaborator.

The quartet maintains a strong commitment to contemporary music, as Saturday's program bears out. In addition to quartets by Schubert and Tchaikovsky (neither of them frequently performed), the Yings will play two movements from "Clouds" by China's Chou Wen-chung (born in 1923).

The piece, a study in the continuing process of change seen in cloud formations and in the ancient art of calligraphy, has the violins, viola and cello approximating the sounds of Asian string instruments such as the sanxian, biwa and yueqin.

Also to be performed is a work by Chen Yi (born 1953), one of China's most important female composers. Her "Shuo," a work that appropriates folk songs to evoke the feeling of the first day of every month in China's lunar calendar, will be performed, as will the first movement from Chou Wen-Chung's "Poems of Tang," a merging of idioms east and west inspired by poems from the Tang Dynasty.

Ying Quartet

General admission tickets are $24; $18 for students and $9 for full-time students. A pre-concert lecture will be offered for free at 6:30 p.m. Information: 410-715- 0034 or 301-596-6203.

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