Chinese pipa player Liu Fang had been living in Canada for less than a year when she recorded this beautiful solo set for the Montreal-based Oliver Sudden Productions. The pipa is a traditional Chinese string instrument, four-stringed, pear-shaped and resembling a lute, although there is more space between the frets and fretboard to allow the player to apply perpendicular pressure to the string for microtonal effects, something typical of Far-Eastern string instruments. It gives it that special Oriental "twang." Otherwise it sounds much like a lute with something of the banjo's dryness and finger-picking technique (but not that metallic). Liu chose her program from the authentic traditional and "modern traditional" repertoires. The disc begins with Hua Yan-jun's "The Great Wave Washes the Beach," one of the classic pipa compositions of the 20th Century, a gracious, evocative tune. But the highlights are found in Zhen Qi-ren's "Melody from a Bamboo House" and Wei Zhong-le's "The Moon Is High." The first one is a contemporary piece that, despite its respect for musical tradition, takes matters deeper into complexity and originality. In Liu's interpretation we hear her complementary interests in traditional and innovative musics. The second is at least a millennium old and calls for wide amounts of virtuosity through its 13 minutes of duration. The way the basic themes are ornamented seem to reflect the structure of nature or -- as it would be called much later -- fractal geometry, producing endless fascination. Out of Liu's fingers ooze serenity, precision and beauty. Highly recommended.
|Label:||OLIVER SUDDEN PROD|