Wu Man Featured on ELEGANT PIPA CLASSICS by Wind Music

Wu Man Featured on ELEGANT PIPA CLASSICS by Wind Music

Taiwanese-based independent record label Wind Music has released the new album Elegant Pipa Classics, featuring internationally renowned pipa player, Wu Man. The album, which is available on iTunes and the website CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com/cd/wuman), is comprised of a total of six tracks each featuring both ancient traditional Eastern tunes and modern works inspired by those ancient melodies. Joining Wu Man on the album are Taiwanese instrumentalists Li Kong-yuan on guqin, Huang Jheng-ming on erhu, and Xu Man-xuan on guzheng.

The tracks on the album are: Thinking of Spring (solo pipa); Rainbow Raiment Song (pipa, erhu, and xiao); Nothing to Do With Romantic Affairs (pipa and guzheng); Autumn Moon over Han Palace (solo pipa); King Chu Removes His Armor (solo pipa); and Three Stanzas of the Plum Blossom (pipa, qin, and xiao). Program notes are available below.

Recognized as the world's premier pipa virtuoso and leading ambassador of Chinese music, Grammy Award-nominated musician Wu Man has carved out a career as a composer, soloist, and educator giving her lute-like instrument - which has a history of over 2,000 years in China - a new role in both traditional and contemporary music. Through numerous trips to her native China, Wu Man has premiered hundreds of new works for the pipa, while spearheading multimedia projects to both preserve and create awareness of China's ancient musical traditions. Her adventurous spirit and virtuosity have led to collaborations across artistic disciplines allowing Wu Man to reach wider audiences as she works to break through cultural and musical borders. On December 6, 2012 Wu Man was named Musical America's 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year, the first traditional musician ever to receive this prestigious award.

Born in Hangzhou, China, Wu Man studied with Lin Shicheng, Kuang Yuzhong, Chen Zemin, and Liu Dehai at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, where she became the first recipient of a master's degree in pipa. Accepted into the conservatory at age 13, Wu Man's audition was covered by national newspapers and she was hailed as a child prodigy, becoming a nationally recognized role model for young pipa players. She subsequently received first prize in the First National Music Performance Competition among many other awards, and she participated in many premieres of works by a new generation of Chinese composers. To find out more about Wu Man, visit www.wumanpipa.org or visit her Facebook fan page.

1. Thinking of Spring "Sih Chun"
Qing Dynasty(1636~1912), Original Scores by Shen Hao-chu (1889~1953 )
Scores Edited by Lin Shi-cheng (1922~2005)
Pipa (Chinese lute): Wu Man

This piece was originally based on the classic tale "Zhaojun Departs for the Frontier". Supposedly when Wang Zhaojun left the capital for the frontier she was full of sorrow, so the piece has a melancholy, grief-stricken mood. In order to convey this emotion, the piece is played primarily with the left hand, so that "abstract" or ephemeral sounds are more prominent than "concrete" or solid sounds, creating a feeling of sighs and sobs. Usually in this type of composition, the performer will intensify the cadence of the melody to express the feeling of grief, but Wu Man quietly and naturally expresses the mood and in the elegant charm of her delicate left hand technique, thoroughly reveals the woman's deep, unspoken feelings without the need for heat or fire.

2. Rainbow Raiment Song "Ni Shang Cyu"
Folk Melody of Jiangnan
Pipa: Wu Man
Erhu (Chinese fiddle): Huang Jheng-ming
Xiao (Chinese flute): Shih Mei-yu

"Hare Rises in the East," "The Silver Moon Toad Spits Color," "The Bright Moon Hangs in the Sky," "Chang'e Weaves with Her Shuttle," and "The Jade Moon Hare Sets."

Even though "Rainbow Raiment Song" is a well-known Jiangnan sizhu ("silk and bamboo" music) classic, this version is a fresh, unusual experiment, performed using only three instruments - erhu, pipa, and xiao. What makes this piece special is that all the instrumentals play the main theme together in unison or at the interval of an octave in an orderly and unhurried fashion, layer upon layer sketching out a beautiful impression of roaming the Moon Palace. As a native of Hangzhou (where this piece is said to originate), Wu Man is filled with delight when she talks about it. She believes that the three instruments together express the free, nimble character of Jiangnan (southern China) folk music and allow listeners to feel simple, natural character of the local culture as if they were sitting in a tea shop by the side of West Lake (Xi Hu) in Hangzhou.

3. Nothing to Do with Romantic Affairs "Wu Guan Fong Yue"
Composed by Wu Zong-sian (1961~)
Pipa: Wu Man
Guzheng (Chinese zither): Xu Man-xuan

This piece for guzheng and pipa was written in 2000 at the invitation of the National Experimental Chinese Orchestra (now known as the National Chinese Orchestra, Taiwan). The piece has four sections: Moderato, Allegro, Ad libitum, and Moderato (Reprise of main theme). In the ad libitum third section, aside from the introduction and the coda, the middle part is completely given over to the instrumentalists to improvise freely. Even if it is the same performer performing in a different situation, she may come up with a different interpretation, which adds great interest to the piece.

Pipa and guzheng are both traditional instruments with long histories, but they have very different historical backgrounds and characteristic tones. This piece, however, blends these two instruments together very well. In the moderato and allegro sections, the melody and the rhythm create a feeling like they are pursuing each other in an antiphonal relationship, while in the improvisational ad libitum section they switch to an unhurried, easy pace.

4. Autumn Moon over Han Palace "Han Gong Ciou Yue"
Original Scores by Shen Jhao-jhou (1858~1929)
Scores Edited by Lin Shi-cheng (1922~2005)
Pipa: Wu Man

The titles of ancient Chinese compositions always have a poetic ring to them, and the characteristic left hand technique of pipa compositions in the lyric ("wenqu") style often evoke a feeling of melancholy. Modern people usually think of the title of this piece as referring to the sorrow felt by imperial ladies living restricted lives in the palace, with unsteady sounds created as the tune is played expressing the sighing of their hearts. In Wu Man's interpretation of "Autumn Moon over Han Palace", however, there is a faintly pleasant tinge to their recollections of the past or their thoughts of their families on the night of the autumn moon. The graceful, subdued style of the left hand's playing is retained, and it is as if the women depend on the moonlight to help them express their deepest feelings.

5. King Chu Removes His Armor "Ba Wang Sie Jia"
Qing Dynasty(1636~1912), Original Scores by Shen Hao-chu (1889~1953 )
Scores Edited by Lin Shi-cheng (1922~2005)
Pipa: Wu Man

"King Chu Removes His Armor" is a traditional martial ("wuqu") style composition. Both it and "Ambush from Ten Sides" describe the final confrontation between the Chu ruler Xiang Yu and the Han ruler Liu Bang in Gaixia.

Although both "King Chu Removes His Armor" and "Ambush from Ten Sides" are famous martial tunes for the pipa that describe the conflict between Chu and Han, but the former describes the defeated Xiang Yu gloomily removing his armor, while the latter sings the praises of the vigor of the victorious Liu Bang, so there is a different artistic mood that influences the songs' styles. In 1989, Wu Man won first place in China's national pipa competition with her profound and original interpretation of "King Chu Removes His Armor". After many more years of playing, rather than aggressively showing off her playing ability as in the past, this time her interpretation is restrained and calm, expressing even better the vigor of the ancient tune and the heartless nature of war.

6. Three Stanzas of the Plum Blossom "Mei Hua San Nong"
Qing Dynasty(1636~1912), Jhou Sian-zu?Cin Pu Sie Sheng?(1820)
Scores Adapted by Cha Fu-si (1895~1978)
Qin: Li Kong-yuan
Pipa: Wu Man
Xiao: Chen Rui-kuan

The aloof and unyielding nature of the plum blossom was much loved by the literati in ancient China. In both music and painting, plum, bamboo, chrysanthemum, and pine were often used to represent the "keep away from worldly affairs" free-spirited character of the wise man. The "three stanzas" part of the composition's name refers to the use of harmonics to play the main melody on the stops of three different stanzas on the qin.

In recent years "Three Stanzas of the Plum Blossom" has been adapted for solo pipa, but this rare and distinctive interpretation is a qin version performed on qin, pipa and xiao. With the original qin and xiao acting as a base, Wu Man improvised against the main melody. She tuned the pipa one step lower, emphasizing the low notes of the pipa in imitation of the qin. The impression left by the piece is one of elegance and delicacy.