While growing up in Winnetka, the Ying siblings gravitated toward music but weren’t sure about a musical career. Phillip studied economics at Harvard before transferring to Juilliard, and Janet toyed with the idea of becoming a physician like her father. But eventually all four siblings ended up at the Eastman School pursuing graduate work in string playing. Their choices of instruments–Timothy and Janet, violins; Phillip, viola; and David, cello–marked them as a traditional string quartet, and about seven years ago, when Janet was still in high school, they started performing as a quartet. Under the tutelage of the Cleveland String Quartet at Eastman, their reputation as the most promising young chamber group in the country grew, and in 1991 their New York debut recital garnered glowing reviews. But a year later the Yings defied conventional wisdom and chose to participate in the National Endowment for the Arts’ new Rural Residency Initiative. They were dispatched to Jesup, Iowa, a town of 2,000, as ambassadors for chamber music, and for two years, excepting summer-festival gigs, they performed in schools, hospitals, and private homes around the farm community. Yet what was regarded as a poor career move proved a boon, as they garnered lots of publicity, capped by a Charles Kuralt profile on CBS. It helped that the quartet won the coveted Naumburg award around this time. One Naumburg perk was a commission by the University of Chicago’s Ralph Shapey, the String Quartet no. 8, a characteristically neoexpressionist work that the Yings premiered for Iowa audiences. They moved back to the Chicago area last summer and immediately took on a new assignment as Northwestern University’s quartet in residence. One requirement of that job is a series of three recitals, beginning with tonight’s, which features Dvorak’s Piano Quintet and Janacek’s Second Quartet, both heavyweight classics that ought to test their vaunted technical skills and capacity for fresh interpretive insights. Sylvia Wang is the pianist in the Dvorak. A discussion with the musicians begins at 6:45. Friday, 7:30 PM, Lutkin Hall, Northwestern University, 700 University, Evanston; 708-491-5441 or 708-467-4000.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Peter Schaaf.