Tag Archives: pipa

Significant Chamber Strings and Pipa Interplay

Lin Ma & Zhen Chen – On & Between (Navona Records, 2018)

On & Between is a remarkable encounter between western classical music and Chinese musical traditions. It is elegant and melodic music, combing piano and western chamber music instruments with pipa (an ancient Chinese lute) and Chinese folk music elements, plus one forgettable jazz piece.

The album is a reflection of the emotions experienced by an immigrant in a new country.

On & Between highlights the work of composer and pianist Zhen Chen and the exquisite, masterful performances of pipa player Lin Ma.

The other musicians who appear on the album include Cho-Liang Lin on violin; Elmira Darvarova on violin; David Geber on cello; Liang Wang on oboe; Howard Wall on French horn; Shenghua Hu on violin; Milan Milisavljevic on viola; Braxton Cook on saxophone; and Curtis Nowosad on drums.


Chinese Buddhist Music from Beijing Zhi Hua Temple

Bao Jian, Jian Bing and Gao Hong – Chinese Buddhist Temple Music (ARC Music, 2018)

Three virtuoso Chinese musicians, performing traditional musical instruments, deliver a meditative set of musical from Beijing’s Zhi Hua Temple, constructed during the Ming dynasty in 1443.

Every temple has its specific style of music and ‘Chinese Buddhist Temple Music’ contains four tracks that incorporate court, Buddhist temple and folk music.

The three artists are Bao Jian, Jian Bing and Gao Hong. They recreate the temple music in a traditional form. Bao plays the guanzi, a reed instrument that resembles an oboe; Hu specializes in a vertical pipe, mouth blown instrument called sheng; and Gao performs on the pipa, the pear-shaped Chinese lute.

Chinese Buddhist Temple Music is a fascinating recording with masterful performances by three superb instrumentalists that open the door the music generated in Buddhist temples.

Buy Chinese Buddhist Temple Music


Artist Profiles: Min Xiao-Fen

Min Xiao-Fen

Min Xiao-Fen is a virtuoso on the pipa. She was a pipa soloist for the Nanjing, National Music Orchestra, and was winner of numerous Pipa competitions throughout China.

Known for her virtuosity and fluid style, she has received acclaim for her classical, contemporary and Jazz performances. Min’s solo recording, The Moon Rising was hailed by BBC Music Magazine as one of the best CDs of 1996. Her recording Viper – Improvisations with Derek Bailey was one of the Wire’s albums of the Year in 1998. She also premiered Tan Dun’s Peony Pavilion, an opera with director Peter Sellars.

Min emigrated to the United States in 1992.


The Moon Rising (Cala, 1996)
Spring River Flower Moon Night (Asphodel Records, 1997)
Zhou, L.: 8 Chinese Folk Songs / Poems From Tang / Soul (The Flowing Stream – Chinese Folk Songs and Tone Poems) (Delos, 1998)
With Six Composers (Avant, 1998)
The Floating Box (New World Records, 2005)
Huang, Ruo: Drama Theater Nos. 2-4 / String Quartet No. 1, “The 3 Tenses” (Naxos, 2009)
Dim Sum (Blue Pipa, 2012)
Mao, Monk and Me (2017)


Artist Profiles: Shao Rong

Shao Rong

Born and raised in Shanghai, China, Shao Rong first broke with tradition when she moved to Japan (she is currently living in Tokyo), although she maintains an allegiance to the Chinese lute which differs from the Japanese version. Although similarly shaped, the Japanese lute is more rhythm-oriented and played with a fan-shaped pick while the Chinese instrument stresses the melody and is plucked with the fingertips which are covered with special artificial nails.

Shao’s second move away from tradition is that she plays mostly modern compositions on her recordings. In addition, she utilizes a combination of ancient instruments – guzheng (a Chinese zither invented thousands of years ago, now normally with 21 strings), erhu (a very old two-string Chinese lute played with a bow, originally constructed to imitate the human voice, and known in Japan as the niko), dizi (a small Chinese flute from the Tang Age two-thousand-years-ago) and shakuhachi (a Japanese bamboo flute) – mixed with modern Western instrumentation like piano, guitar and bass.

In 1998, Shao was chosen by the Japanese Agency of Culture to join Tempyo-Gafu, an Asian ancient-music ensemble, which performed special concerts at the United Nations and in major U.S. cities including New York, Washington and Los Angeles (the show was televised in Japan).

Rong was allowed the high honor of playing an extremely valuable thousand-year-old five-string pipa, the oldest one in the world which makes it a national treasure. Rong usually plays the pipa in the “Rinshi” style using all five fingers to create a tremolo effect which makes the instrument sound to Western ears like a mandolin one moment or a banjo the next.

Shao always excelled at music and by the time she entered college, she was considered one of the top musical prodigies in all of China. She began taking piano lessons when she was five-years old and started lute lessons at age ten. When she was in her second year of junior high school, a new music school was established under the wing of the Beijing National Central Music Institute. Shao, along with 20,000 other students, took the entrance exams which only 12 passed. Of those, five were selected to attend this special university. Shao Rong was one of those chosen. At the Central Conservatory of Music in Bejing, she studied under the legendary pipa player Professor Liu Dehai, whose mastery was regarded as a national asset of the country.

After graduating from college, Rong returned to Shanghai in 1987 and joined the National Folk Music Band as a featured soloist, and she won a top award (“The Artistic Excellence Prize”) as one of the outstanding artists at the Shanghai Arts Festival. “In order to experience a fresh environment for my music,” says Rong, “I decided to move to Japan.” In 1989, she enrolled at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music which led to her appearance in the Shiki Company production of “Madame Butterfly” in 1990 as both a pipa player and an actress. After graduation, her performance schedule increased.

In July 1998, she performed as a soloist with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in the Japanese premiere of “Marco Polo,” an opera by one of China’s leading composers, Tan Dun. This led to an invitation from the Sapporo Symphony for her to appear as a soloist in a performance of “The Great Wall” by Japanese composer Ikuma Dan in April 1999. In July of that year, Rong had the honor of performing the world premiere of Tan Dun’s “Concerto for Pipa and String Orchestra” at the Pan Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo which won Shao worldwide attention as a musician and led to performance requests from all over Asia, America and Europe. She also played at the Asian Composers Conference in Yokohama, and gave another Japanese premiere of Tan Dun’s work at the Suntory Hall Summer Festival. In addition, Shao is a part of the unique Li-Hua Ensemble.

On Shao Rong’s Orchid album, she is joined by various musicians including Jia Peng Fang on erhu and Naoyuki Onda on acoustic piano. The album was produced by Pacific Moon’s acclaimed recording team of Kazurnasa Yoshioka and Seiichi Kyoda. Kyoda wrote all of the tunes for the album with the exception of “Precious Moon” (which was based on the famous old Chinese classic song “Yue Er Gao”). Orchid begins and ends with two different versions of the tune “Wild Rose,” the first featuring the lute with piano and erhu, and the second placing the pipa sounds alongside acoustic guitar.

I tried many new musical techniques on this album,” says Shao. “There are different styles in the playing of the lute. One is ‘bukyoku’ which is a very fierce, aggressive way of playingand the other one, ‘bunkyoku’ is a gentler type of playing….for the first time during these recording sessions, I played the lute with other instruments which are all of western origin like guitar, piano, bass and drums.”


Orchid (Pacific Moon Records, 2001)
Orchid, Vol. 2 (Pacific Moon Records, 2004)


Artist Profiles: Liu Fang

Liu Fang at WOMEX – Photo by Angel Romero

Born in Kunming (China) in 1974, Liu Fang started learning the pipa (Chinese lute) at the age of 6 and soon began to perform in public as a child prodigy, including a performance for the Queen of England. She graduated from Shanghai Conservatory where she also learnt to play the guzheng.

Since she moved to Montreal in 1996, Liu Fang has toured all over the world, building a remarkable artistic profile by captivating audiences and critics with her masterful, rich and deeply-spirited pipa and guzheng playing, as well as for her wide ranging repertoire. She possesses a virtuoso’s technique and a unique empathy toward the music she plays – whether it is a traditional folk tune or a modern Western composition. Among the numerous solo recitals, concertos and concerts with quartets and ensembles, Liu Fang has premiered new compositions by the celebrated Canadian composers R. Murray Schafer, Melissa Hui and Hugues Leclair. She often appears on radio and TV nationally and internationally, and has produced three pipa solo CDs and several other albums collaborating with artists of various traditions where she plays both pipa and guzheng. Liu Fang has been awarded several grants by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec (CALQ).

Liu Fang

In June 2001 she was awarded the prestigious Millennium Prize for Future Generations by the Canada Council for the Arts. The present CD is her first guzheng solo album. Since guzheng is her second instrument, and due to her modest nature, she was quite reluctant to produce a solo guzheng album although her playing has been loved by her audience. Upon the request of so many music lovers, Liu Fang finally made the decision to produce one.

Her album Silk Sound – Le Son de Soie produced by Accords Croises in Paris has honored her with the prestigious L’Academie Charles Cros Award, the French equivalent of the Grammy Awards. This is another prestigious prize since she received the Millennium Prize for Future Generations awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts in 2001.


Chinese Traditional Pipa Music (Oliver Sudden Productions, 1997)
The soul of pipa, vol. 1: Chinese Pipa Music from the classical tradition (Philmultic, 2001)
The soul of pipa, vol. 2: Chinese classical Pipa Music, from the ancient to the recent (Philmultic, 2003)
Emerging Lotus: Chinese traditional guzheng music (Philmultic, 2005)
The soul of pipa, vol. 3: Pipa Music from Chinese folk traditions (Philmultic, 2006)


Artist Profiles: Lingling Yu

Lingling Yu

Lingling Yu was born in the south-western part of China, near Shanghai, beautiful city Hangzhou, starting point Silk Road. She took up music at age eight. Lingling studied violin, erhu and pipa performed concerts.

At the age of fourteen she devoted herself to the pipa and was awarded first prize in the entrance exam of the China Central Conservatory. A child prodigy, she was the subject of a documentary that was part of the “Small Music Genius” cycle, as well as various other TV and press reports. She then entered the China National Conservatory. At the age of twenty-two she obtained her bachelor’s degree in literature. In 1988 she won the national competition of Chinese traditional music in Beijing. She was officially appointed professor at Qing Hua University, where she taught until 1997.

Together with her master Liu Dehai, a famous composer who performed compositions for pipa and orchestra under the direction of Herbert von Karajan, she traveled throughout China with her favorite instrument, teaching and giving public performances. Ms. Yu and Liu Dehai exerted a great influence on the evolution of music for pipa. She stayed in the Philippines where she taught and played concerts in various cities.

She studied with other famous pipa musicians such as Luo Jieli, Wang Fandi and Sun Weixi who gave Lingling Yu the opportunity to broaden her knowledge, enrich repertoire a great variety of styles, allowed find own way, giving free range personality. performing style is clear, bright, warm creative, characterized by subtle balance brightness delicacy, emotion serenity, blending two principles Chinese philosophy: yin yang. Lingling Yu and her master are linking points between western eastern music.

She settled in Switzerland 1998 to carry on with this research. has been studying composition Jean Balissat at the Lausanne Conservatory. regularly gives concerts of Chinese classical music all regions other European countries. Also gave radio concerts (Swiss-German radio, Swiss-French, France) TV.

In 1999 she released her first CD of solo music for pipa, “The Swan” in Switzerland. Since October 2000 she studies composition at the conservatory of Geneva and she also plays Chinese-Western contemporary music. Ms. Yu also practices the traditional martial arts Tai Ji Quan and Mei Hua Zhuang, based on the Taoist Yin Yang theory.


Tian E (Amori, 1999)

Xu Lai (Felmay, 2009)

Yue Luo (Felmay, 2011)

The Musical Voyages of Marco Polo (World Village, 2013)

Meng Yuan (2017)


Artist Profiles: He-Cheng Liu

Beijing native He-Cheng Liu has been a musician for over 30 years. Liu is a pipa (lute) and gu-qin (ancient zither) virtuoso of remarkable experience. A member of the prestigious National Traditional Orchestra of China since 1984, Liu has toured all over the world, performing and teaching from Vienna and Denmark to Singapore and Taiwan.

Earmarked for music at age 10, Liu was one of the few kids chosen by the Chinese government for conservatory training at the Madame Jiang Ching’s May 7th Cultural Arts University in Beijing. It was 1972, a time when all of China’s arts and cultural activities, except for the Beijing Opera, were suspended due to the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). In those days, Madame Jiang Ching still loved Chinese literature and film, and wanted to preserve something on a national scale.

Liu studied for 12 years under the influential pipa master Li Guang Hua, who taught only four students in his life. The pipa is an ancient, four-stringed Chinese lute instrument popular throughout Chinese history and culture, from courtly entertainment and accompaniment to modern orchestral solo and ensemble recitals.

During college, he was allowed to choose a second specialty, the gu-qin, which he soon mastered as well. Liu He Cheng plays both the pipa and his secondary instrument, the gu-qin, the most ancient instrument from China played by even fewer musicians today.


Artist Profiles: Cheng Yu

Cheng Yu

Cheng Yu is an internationally famous pipa and guqin virtuoso. At the age of 13 she won first prize in the National Youth Competition for the Performance of Traditional Instruments. She was trained at the Xi’an Conservatory of Music in pipa and guqin and was winner of the Outstanding Performer award for pipa performance at the China Traditional Instruments Competition.

After graduating with distinction, she joined the Central Orchestra for Chinese Music in Beijing as a pipa soloist and has subsequently been elected Fellow of the Chinese Association of Musicians. In 2004 she completed her PhD in ethnomusicology (Chinese Music) at SOAS, University of London.

Since arriving in London she has performed over 600 concerts in the UK and internationally at venues including the Purcell Room, WOMAD, Edinburgh Festival and Duck’s Hall, has undertaken cross-genre collaborations, published three solo CDs, and takes commissions for film and TV recording.

She is also the founder of the UK Chinese Music Ensemble and London Youlan Qin (seven-stringed zither) Society and a member of the the Silk String Quartet.


Classical Chinese Pipa (ARC Music, 1994)
Chinese Masterpieces of the Pipa & Qin (ARC Music, 2007)


Wu Man & Huayin Shadow Puppet Band to Perform at New York Society for Ethical Culture

Wu Man

Pipa master Wu Man and Huayin Shadow Puppet Band are set to perform on Saturday, March 17, 2018, at New York Society for Ethical Culture in Manhattan. The show is presented by World Music Institute.

Recognized as one of the world’s leading performers, Wu Man has developed a career as a soloist, educator and composer who has given her lute-like instrument (which has a history of over 2,000 years in China) a new role in both traditional and contemporary music.

Wu Man’s work as a member of Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble and her prevalent role in the recent documentary on the ensemble titled The Music of Strangers has brought her work to the attention of larger audiences.

Wu Man is collaborating with the remarkable Huayin Shadow Puppet Band (formerly known as the Zhang Family Band) for performances of old tune traditional music with shadow puppetry. Along with vocal performances, the Huayin Shadow Puppet Band uses the yueqin, banhu, erhu, lute, fiddle and a variety of percussion instruments (including clappers, gongs, cymbals and a wood bench) to tell lively stories of rural life in remote China and draw the audience into places and sounds rarely heard in the West.

Starting in 2007, as part of her planning for the “Ancient Paths, Modern Voices” Festival at Carnegie Hall, Wu Man began traveling regularly to China’s remote regions to uncover the country’s ancient musical traditions that are in danger of being lost, including the traditions of the Huayin Shadow Puppet Band, seen in her 2012 documentary Discovering a Musical Heartland. The Band comprises farmers from Shaanxi Province’s Huayin County in a rural village at the foot of Mount Hua in northwest China. For more than 300 years the Huayin Shadow Puppet Band has toured the countryside, bringing its rugged shadow puppet plays that call to life the mythical heroes and gods of the oral folk culture of Shaanxi, often evoking famous battles of the Tang dynasty (618-907), to temple fairs and rituals.

Wu Man is bringing the Huayin Shadow Puppet Band to the United States for only the second time in an effort to not only preserve this traditional art form, but also show its relevance in our 21st century.

The program features Wu Man performing both solo and with the Band.

Saturday, March 17, 2018, 8:00 p.m.
Wu Man & Huayin Shadow Puppet Band
New York Society for Ethical Culture
2 W. 64th St, Manhattan


Artist Profiles: Jie Ma

Jie Ma

Jie Ma plays Chinese traditional instruments: pipa and ruan. “I began my musical studies at the age of five and became a professional musician at age 14. I studied with the great pipa masters such as Fendi Wang Dehai Liu and Yuzhong Kuang and ruan professor Jiliang Liu.”

In 2001 she received her Bachelor of Music from the Tianjin Conservatory of Music one of the best music schools in China. Because of her talent Jie Ma was accepted exceptionally as an adjunct professor in the music department of Liao Ning Normal University. “During my stay at Liao Ning Normal University I was constantly invited to many colleges to give presentations on Chinese traditional music and Chinese folk music. I was invited to Japan in 2002 to give a pipa and ruan concert in a cultural exchange program.”

In May 2004 she performed at Herbst Theater San Francisco. From 2004 to 2005 she hosted a radio program on introducing the Chinese music at the Sing Tao Radio Station. In February 2005 she performed at the Pan-Asian Musical Festival in Stanford.

I also began experimenting with different genres in 2005. In February 25 I played with the Citywinds Woodwind Quintet in San Francisco as a member of Melody of China a Chinese music ensemble. The concert combined western chamber music with Chinese traditional music.” In March 26 Jie Ma was asked to perform in an avant garde project titled Sound for Picture with the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra.

In a continuing effort to explore different sounds of pipa I play pipa with different musicians in different discipline and forms. In addition to collaborating with other traditional Chinese musicians I have worked with many musicians of different genres such as jazz country blues and rock. I welcome the opportunity to work with other talented musicians to create new sounds.”


Pipa New Sound