The Commission & Inspiration behind the Four Corners Quartet

Chris Devonshire-Ellis
In November 2012, the company I founded in China back in 1992 turned twenty years old. While that may be a minor age in many ancient cultures, in China and Asia, given the extraordinary growth this region has achieved during the past two decades, it represents instead a significant commercial milestone. Since commencing operations (we provide tax and legal services to foreign companies in China and Asia) we have grown from being a one man band based in a tiny office in Shenzhen, the mainland Chinese city just across the border from Hong Kong, to a fully Asian practice with 17 offices and several hundred staff across China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, and Singapore. We have also developed in terms of personnel who work for the firm to become a truly global firm, with myself being British, in addition to many other nationalities including Italians, Germans, French, Spanish, American, Canadian, Nepalese, Indonesians and many others in addition to all the local staff resident in our offices throughout the countries we operate in. As a business, we have become a cultural melting pot in the workplace, and I have enjoyed that aspect of our twenty years growth.

At the same time, I have always tried to encourage the inclusion of Asian culture into business – and especially from the foreign investor’s position - as I believe cultural appreciation of the country one is operating in is an integral part of the dynamics and happiness of the company concerned, and an integral and indispensable part of its success. However, when thinking of a suitable manner in which to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the founding of our firm, I found myself pinned down by the usual array of logos on coffee mugs, ties, ballpoint pens, mouse-pads and many other promotional banalities. I was stuck for something suitable to mark this particular event.

While enjoying a Sunday lunch at Michelle Garnaut’s Capital M restaurant in Beijing earlier this year (it’s just off Tiananmen Square for those who’d like to go) I was delighted to see classical music concerts were being held on the restaurant premises. That particular afternoon, the Beijing based, expatriate group the Phoenix Quartet were performing Mozart, and I was fascinated by their sense of musical style and adventure, which included some original transcriptions. Afterwards I approached them and broadly outlined an idea of them playing at the firm’s birthday events, then later began to realize this had the potential for turning into something more: a new piece of music.

Through the Phoenix Quartet, I was introduced to Brent Parker, a contemporary composer of some renown, who currently resides in China. Over a couple of very good bottles of wine at the Aria Bar within Beijing’s China World Hotel, we were able to come up with the theme for the commission. I required a unique piece that would reflect the firm’s heritage, both in terms of our Asian identity and the personnel who have made the practice what it is today. By combining Chinese and Indian motifs with Italian and British themes (the latter referencing the nationalities of our business footprint across Asia as well as those of the main partners of the firm), the concept was enthusiastically taken up. The result is the piece you can now hear on this website. It has been an extraordinary project, and one that I have felt deserves a wider audience than just our own, still growing practice and audience. The Four Corners piece has evolved into something rather more than an Anniversary commission, and in actual fact reaches out and celebrates global culture and trade between China, India and Europe, as well as our twentieth birthday. I hope listeners agree that this is an appropriate sentiment.

I would like to thank Brent, the members of the Phoenix Quartet, the recording studio and engineers, plus all of the staff, clients and friends of our business over the past twenty years. Together, we are equally commemorated in the creation of a wonderful new piece of music, and are additionally a small part of musical and cultural history as a result. I can think of no better gift to express my gratitude to all who have helped us reach this milestone. I truly hope that all those who come to this website to listen to this music enjoy it as much as I have in being part of this project and hope that the Four Corners Quartet will, in its own way, inspire others to mutually embrace cultural appreciation as the basis for better understanding and comprehension as a gateway to success, longevity and harmony between East and West. New arts need support from global corporates, please reach out and support your cultural community to enable us all to enjoy the fruits of today’s talent.

With best wishes

Chris Devonshire-Ellis
Founding Partner, Dezan Shira & Associates
Beijing, November 2012