Violinist Yi-Wen Jiang was born into a musical family in Beijing where both parents were professional musicians in the Chinese Navy Orchestra. Having been immersed in such a musical family – his father a Concertmaster for over 35 years and his mother a solo soprano – Jiang was most intrigued by the violin. After hearing Beethoven's violin concerto (the family's only owned piece of recorded music) at the age of three, Jiang was committed to becoming a world-class violinist. This western influence framed Jiang's passion for composition and performance, and still follows him today in performances by the Shanghai Quartet.
As is the story of many Chinese string players from his generation, Jiang is a true product of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 70s. One particular memory for Jiang from this period happened when he was 11 years old. Chaperoned by his father, Jiang auditioned for a prominent violin professor at the Central Conservatory of Music. With the hidden intention for his son to be selected for training, Jiang's father was taking his chances that day that no one would find out. As Jiang began to play the Mozart A Major Concerto, the Professor abruptly stopped him and swiftly left the room. The Professor returned with a heavy metal mute which he placed on Jiang's violin with great caution for fear any one outside would hear the non-Chinese music. At a time when families could be severely punished with imprisonment or sentencing to hard labor for such a bold act, this behavior was considered as rebellious and kept secret from Chinese governmental authorities. Though the Professor was delighted at Jiang's obvious ability and talent, he candidly advised Jiang and his father that no such performance could be admissible at the Conservatory. After a couple more years of practicing only Chinese repertoire strongly influenced by his smoldering passion for western influences in classical music, China had reached a time when censorship of the arts was being phased out, Jiang was finally able to make his debut at the Conservatory.
Jiang made his concerto debut at the age of 17 with the Central Opera House Orchestra in Beijing where he played the Prokofiev D Major Concerto Opus 19. In 1981, after winning top prize at the first China Youth Violin Competition, Jiang was accepted to study with Professor Han Li at the Central Conservatory of Music. After receiving a full scholarship from McDonnell-Douglas at the St. Louis Conservatory, Jiang came to the U.S. in 1985 to study with Taras Gabora and Michael Tree. Other teachers in the U.S. included Arnold Steinhardt and Pinchas Zuckerman. As a prizewinner at the Montreal International Competitions, he appeared as a soloist with the Victoria Symphony and Montreal Symphony. Jiang had appeared at many international music festivals by the age of 22.
Jiang joined The Shanghai Quartet in 1994. As a composer, Jiang has arranged over 50 pieces for string quartet and other instruments, many pieces composed with Eastern repertoire and Western influence. In addition to his extensive touring and recordings schedule, Jiang maintains a close relationships with his students. Jiang teaches at Montclair State University and The Bard College Conservatory of Music. He is also guest
professor at the Shanghai Conservatory and the Central Conservatory in Beijing. He plays on a 1800 Giovanni Gagliano violin made in Naples, Italy. When not performing, composing or teaching, Jiang enjoys photography, film & audio editing, and food & wine. Jiang lives with his family in New Jersey.