Liu Fang
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Liu Fang

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"Superb sensitivity and unrivaled dramaturgic feeling. ... By observing (her playing), one sees the love which links her with the music; one feels the unison which resounds between her being, the instrument, and above all, one shares her deep joy ..."

Liu Fang

La tête légèrement renversée en arrière, les paupières closes, les doigts de Liu Fang caressent, pincent ou frottent les quatre cordes de son instrument avec passion. Lorsqu'elle joue du pipa, la musicienne chinoise remet 2000 ans d'histoire en jeu, 3000 lorsqu'elle passe au guzheng. Les répertoires n'ont cessé de s'enrichir depuis ces époques mais ils furent également amputés par les guerres et, plus récemment, par la révolution culturelle des communistes chinois qui voulait faire table rase du passé.

Avec une sensibilité à fleur de peau et un sens dramaturgique sans égal Liu Fang va d'une mélodie datant de l'ère des Han à une pièce contemporaine, en faisant étape vias un air à danser du peuple Yi, qui vit dans la province du Yunnan d'où elle est native. Ses bras se déploient autour de sa pipa comme les ailes d'un cygne qui veut s'envoler sur un lac. Ses gestes sont majestueux et précis. En l'observant on devine l'amour qui l'unit à la musique, on ressent l'unissson qui résonne entre son être, l'instrument et surtout on partage son profond plaisir.

Après quatre pièces interprétées de son luth, elle défait les médiators que des rubans adhésifs maintenaient attachés aux doigts de sa main droite pour en utiliser d'autres mieux adaptés au jeu sur la cithare guzheng. Elle exprime la nature avec une douceur infinie, de la main droite elle fait vibrer la note qu'elle modifie de la gauche en appuyant sur la corde ou en effectuant un glissando. Liu Fang amène la musique au bord du silence provoquant dans la salle une attention extrème. Avec ce vénérable instrument elle traverse des répertoires parfois éloignés de dizaine de siècles sans créer de rupture tant son interprétation subtile doit à sa personnalité.

Elle termine son récital au pipa et après deux mélodies légères et bucoliques, aborde un chef d'oeuvre du répertoire martial. "Le roi de Chu se défait de son armure" est une oeuvre difficile et une spectaculaire évocation d'un combat chevaleresque. La frêle jeune femme et son instrument réveillent sans peine les samouraïs, lancent les chevaux au galop et les flèches enflammées. La salle est plongée au centre des combats et Liu Fang en ressort sous un tonnerre d'applaudissements. Rares sont les artistes qui lient avec autant de simplicité la virtuosité technique et une sensibilité sans bornes.

Benjamin MiNiMuM
Mondomix 2006

http://liu_fang.mondomix.com/fr/portrait3219.htm


- Mondomix 2006


"Liu Fang’s total devotion to her playing has moved her beyond perfect execution to the creativity and flexibility that marks a true musician"

LIU FANG Le Son de Soie - “ Silk Sound
Accords Croise AC 116

Liu Fang, born and educated in Yunnan province of southwest China and now resident in Montreal, is best known as one of the world's leading players of pipa, the dry-toned, teardrop-shaped Chinese four-string lute. Her occasional British performances have included a rain-soaked, noise-pollution afflicted one at Reading Womad a couple of years ago in which her concentration and undistracted excellence brought deserved acclaim from a dripping but entranced audience.

Less known is her command of the less air-portable guzheng, the Chinese long-zither that is the parent to a family widespread in east and central Asia including the Japanese koto. Its strings - nowadays usually 20-25, each running over a movable bridge - are tuned to the appropriate mode, but in the tradition those notes are considered dead, meaningless, until animated by bends and vibrato achieved by the player pressing on the non-sounding lengths of the strings behind the bridges.

Whereas in most of her recordings on the Philmultic label Liu Fang concentrates on pipa, for this elegantly packaged release on French label Accords Croise's three of the eleven tracks are guzheng solos, adding variety and giving a wider view of her musicianship. All the rest are pipa-led: four solo, two duets with Ballake Sissoko's kora, two with Henri Tournier on Indian bansuri transverse flute, and one with Algerian oud player Alla.

She has an extraordinary focused, poised presence in her manner and her playing. In a lesser player this is just a trained formality; the body of material and techniques for her instruments is extremely highly developed, passed down through centuries. But Liu Fang's total devotion to her playing has moved her beyond perfect execution to the creativity and flexibility that marks a true musician.

The duets here are based on traditional themes but are improvising dialogues. For me those with the kora, one based on a Songhai melody from Mali, the other on a traditional tune from Kanding in southwest China, have the most direction, flow and balance between the players, whereas while the oud and bansuri enrich the tone-colour palette those pieces seem rather more tentative.

The album has the sort of airy, reflective sound the instrumentation suggests, but there are bursts of wildness, particularly in the pipa solo The Dragon Boat, a modern piece composed in the 1960s by Lin Shicheng based on three folk tunes, in which Fang uses techniques of scratching, damping, aggressive rasqueado and fast tremolo (the latter involving an extraordinarily disciplined rippling of all five picking fingers).
More about Liu Fang and her instruments. Accords Croise's are distributed by Harmonia Mundi.

- Andrew Cronshaw


- fROOTS Magazine


"a intermédiare which corresponds completely to the magic of the music of Liu Fang, divine mediator"

“… a intermédiare which corresponds completely to the magic of the music of Liu Fang, divine mediator..� (un intermédiare qui correspond tout à fait à la magie de la musique de Liu Fang, médiatrice divine), World, No. 16, France, 2006. - World Magazine


"a fascinating experience. With Liu Fang, a great ambassadress of Chinese music has appeared"

"... delicate yet sensational, ... without any amplification, Liu Fang presented a concert of nearly two hours playing Chinese lute pipa and guzheng (a kind of zither) ... a fascinating experience. With Liu Fang, a great ambassadress of Chinese music has appeared ..." (Met Liu Fang is opnieuw een groot ambassadrice van de Chinese muziek opgestaan.) -Ton Maas, de Volkskrant, Amsterdam, the Netherland, 29.03.2005. - de Volkskrant, Amsterdam, the Netherland


"Masterful, graceful and riveting"

"... she started quietly, with each note ringing out in a manner that sounds uniquely Chinese; but as the tune ebbed and flowed, the occasional crescendos of fast picking were reminiscent of Appalachian mountain style banjo. Masterful, graceful and riveting, Liu will surely return for UK concerts next year, ..." -Charlie Gillett, BBC (London) November 8, 2003 - BBC London


"Liu Fang is a musician of exception; she represents the charm, the grace, and all magic of the East."

• “The audience was enchanted, subjugated by this splendid sound. While playing, Liu Fang becomes one with her instrument. … Liu Fang is a musician of exception; she represents the charm, the grace, and all magic of the East. She plays with such an ease that she makes one forget the difficulties of her art in order to be better transported into her world …. " (Technique, maîtrise des gestes, rapidité, ses doigts s'agitent à une vitesse incroyable. Le public était sous le charme, subjugué par ce son magnifique. Lorsqu'elle joue; Liu Fang fait corps avec son instrument. ... Liu Fang est une musicienne d'exception, elle représente le charme; la grâce, toute la magie de l'Orient. Elle joue avec une telle aisance qu'elle en fait oublier les difficultés de son art afin de mieux transporter le public dans son pay) - Olonne-sur-Mer, le journal Ouest-France, 11 decembre 2004. - le journal Ouest-France


"a rare grace and an extreme refinement,"

• "The ambassadress of charm … The listeners… were listening in a religious silence to this inspiring artist who approaches interpretation like a crowned act,…. One is literally transported in the serene exoticism of the emerged landscapes of these “figurative� musical world .... With a rare grace and an extreme refinement,….Liu Fang exhales from her instruments the pure songs to the subtle nuances. … " (l'ambassadrice de charme... Les auditeurs ... sont écouter dans un silence religieux cette artiste inspirée, qui aborde l'interprétation comme un acte sacré, .... On est, à la lettre, transporté dans l'exotisme serein des paysages surgis de ces musiques aussi "figuratives" que le laissent supposer leurs titres. Avec une grâce aillée et un raffinement extrême, ...Liu Fang exhale de ses instruments des chants purs aux nuances subtiles.) - VENDEE MATIN, vendredi 30 avril 2004. - VENDEE MATIN


"A veritable feast for the ears, eyes, heart and soul"

• "What can be said of Liu Fang's pipa and guzheng recital in Paris? A veritable feast for the ears, eyes, heart and soul of a choice public, attentive and knowledgeable. With such an accomplished musician, the great technical hurdles are forgotten in passing effortlessly and serenely into a marvellous musical paradise....Liu Fang's outstanding technique is married to her musicality. ..." (Que penser du récital de pipa et de guzheng, donné par Liu Fang à Paris? Un véritable régal pour les oreilles, les yeux, le coeur et l'âme d'un public choisi, averti et connaisseur. ... Avec une musicienne d'exception comme elle, on oublie les grandes difficultés techniques pour entrer de plain-pied et en toute sérénité dans un merveilleux paradis musical) - Prof. Dr. Tran Van Khe, Maître de musique traditionelle du Vietnam, Directeur de recherche au CNRS, Professeur à l'Université de Paris Sorbonne, Membre d'honneur du Conseil international de la musique (UNESCO), Membre correspondant de l'Académie européenne des sciences, des lettres et des arts. - Prof. Tran Van Khe


""Yes, there was just one musician, but ten talented fingers!". - Sir Ian McKellen at the BBC concert, November 7, 2003."

Paul Fisher meets a Chinese pipa virtuoso passng through London


fROOTS Magazine(London, UK), March 2004, No. 249


Photo: Andrew Cronchaw


On stage at London's Mermaid Theatre, Chinese pipa player Liu Fang wakes up from her state of inner tranquility. On her Chinese lute, she has just hypnotized an invited audience of a few hundred, and millions of BBC World Service listeners around the world. She played two tunes that ebbed between passages brimming with notes at break neck speed, that flowed into serene sections of space and silence.

Dressed in a blue silk Chinese dress, she accepts the applause gracefully. "Yes, there was just one musician," says tonight's compere Ian McKellen, alluding to those intricate passages. "One musician, but ten talented fingers." Liu Fang is here for a BBC World Service HIV/AIDS concert, to raise awareness of the continuing problems of HIV around the world. On the same bill are Oliver Mtukudzi and Rokia Traore, and various poets and actors.

Next day, Liu Fang is still a picture of calmness itself, while her very likeable effervescent husband and manager, Risheng, is rushing around. He's enthusing about the night before, equally looking forward to the day ahead, a live spot on Charlie Gillett's BBC London radio programme, my own radio show on Resonance FM in London, and of course a chat for fRoots.

At Resonance, Liu Fang plays two tunes in the studio. ... The second, ... she had played the night brfore at the Mermaid. Close up, it's even more of a dazzling experience. She rests her pear shaped lute on her thigh in an upright position. Her dexterity on the instrument is breathtaking, her fingers a blur over the strings. Each finger on her right hand is adorned with a fingernail pluck. Her eyes remained mostly closed, her face expressionless. In my headphones I can hear her breathing deeply.

I can't but help wonder if she is in a conscious state of mind, or in some kind of trance. "I don't know" she says, "I might look relaxed, but inside I'm concentrating very hard. I practice a lot which might be why it looks easy." It doesn't look easy to me. ...

... ...

While a virtuoso of traditional pipa, it's Liu's openness and sense for experimentalism that sets her apart from her peers. Her collaborators have included Syrian oud player and percussionist Farhan Sabbagh. The two recorded a remarkable CD, uniting two ancient stringed instruments from the same family, and toured Canada in 2000. The pipa has it's relation in Vietnam too, the dan ty ba, although Liu Fang played with dan bau (monochord) player Pham Duc Thanh at concerts in Canada. Japanese shakuhachi (bamboo flute) player Yoshio Kurahashi came to Montreal too, a collaboration she describes as one of her most rewarding. One of the most outlandish pairings was with violinist Malcolm Goldstein. "He's a wonderful musician' Liu enthuses, 'an American about 70 years old, now living in Montreal. What we do is very unusual, deep, and totally free." The only track I hear is about as far from the refined musician sitting quietly in front of me as you can get. Liu strums and slaps her pipa in discordant tones while Goldstein screeches over the top.

In yet another string to her pipa, the western classical world has embraced Liu Fang. She has premiered new compositions by Canadian composers R.Murray Schafer and Melissa Hui, performed two concertos for pipa and orchestra with the Moravia Symphony Orchestra in Prague, and played with various string quartets including the Paul Klee Quartet in Venice and the Nouvelle Ensemble Moderne in Montreal.

So successful is Liu Fang in the classical scene in Europe, she has not yet had time to make inroads into the world music market. This is something she and Risheng are keen to rectify, their brief visit to London being a good start. At BBC London, Charlie Gillett is suitably impressed as is his other guest for the evening, Robert Cray. The listeners are too, judging from the feedback.

In 2001, Liu Fang was the only musician to receive the prestigious 'Future Generation Millennium Prize' awarded by Canada Council for the Arts to artists under 30 years of age. The words of the jury summed her up rather succinctly. "Liu Fang's mastery of the pipa and the guzheng has established her international reputation as a highly talented young interpreter of traditional Chinese music. She aspires to combine her knowledge and practice of eastern traditions with western classical music, contemporary music and improvisation, thereby creating new musical forms, uniting different cultures and discovering new audiences."

With talk of her coming back for concerts and a recording project next year, hopefully UK and European world music audiences will be given the chance to discover Liu Fang too.

Liu Fang & Farhan Sabbagh Arabic and Chinese Music (philmultic). Liu Fang Chinese Classical Pipa Music from the The Ancient to The Recent (Philmultic). Available via www.philmultic.com or in UK via www.farsidemusic.com, tel.: 020-7722 3054.

-Paul Fisher, fROOTS Magazine(London, UK), March 2004, No. 249 .

- fROOTS Magazine


"... She's just a star ..."

"When Liu plays the pipa and guzheng, you hear the haunting melodies and the harmonic range that is so accessible. She's just a star"

more press reviews and their sources in http://www.liufangmusic.net/pressreviews/index.html - York Press, UK, 2008


Discography

Title: Le son de soie / silk sound
Cat. No.: AC 116
Interpreter: Liu Fang (pipa and guzheng), Alla (oud), Ballake Sissoko (Kora), Henri Tournier (Bansuri)
Genre: traditional classic and improvization.
Label: Accords Croises, Paris, France
Year of release: 2006

Title: The Soul of Pipa, Vol. III - pipa music from Chinese folk roots
Cat. No.: PMPCD001-3
Interpreter: Liu Fang
Genre: Classical and folkloric tradition with contemporary compositions
Feature: music from various parts of China, reflecting the styles of different ethnic groups and geographical regions.
Label: Philmultic , Montreal, Canada
Year of release: 2006 [Available from September 20, 2006]

Title: Emerging Lotus - Chinese traditional guzheng music
Cat. No.: PMPCD801
Interpreter: Liu Fang
Genre: solo guzheng
Label: Philmultic, Montreal, Canada
Year of release: 2005

Title: Mei Hua - Fleur de prunier
Cat. No.: ATMA 2 2332
Interpreter: Lise Daoust (flute) and Liu Fang (pipa and guzheng)
Genre: Duo - flute and guzheng (pipa)
Music for anti-stress relaxing and meditation, and suitable for Taiji practice.
Label: ATMA Classique , Montreal, Canada
Year of release: 2004

Title: The Soul of Pipa, Vol. II - Chinese classical pipa music from the ancient to the recent
Cat. No.: PMPCD001-2
Interpreter: Liu Fang
Genre: classical tradition, solo pipa
Feature: Time evolution of pipa repertoire.
Label: Philmultic, Montreal, Canada
Year of release: 2003

Title: The Soul of Pipa, Vol. I - Traditional and Classical pipa music
Cat. No.: PMPCD001-1
Interpreter: Liu Fang
Genre:classical tradition, solo pipa
feature: pure ancient classical tradition only.
Label: Philmultic , Montreal, Canada
Year of release: 2001

Title: Arabic and Chinese Music
Cat. No.: PMPCD002
Interpreter: Liu Fang (pipa and guzheng) and Farhan Sabbagh (ud and percussion)
Genre: Arabic and Chinese classical music re-arranged (and improvized) on duo or trio
Label: Philmultic , Montreal, Canada
Year of release: 2000

Title: Chinese pipa and guzheng Music
Cat. No.: LF990602CD
Interpreter: Liu Fang (pipa and guzheng) and Ye Xuran (Pipa)
Genre: Pipa and Chinese chember orchestra, pipa and guzheng duo, pipa duo, pipa and guzheng solo
Label: Philmultic , Montreal, Canada
Year of release: 1999

Title: Traditional Chinese Pipa Music
Liu Fang - pipa solo
Cat. No. K1009
Oliver-sudden, released in July 1997

Photos

Bio

As a child prodigy, and now in her early 30s, Liu Fang has been known as an internationally acclaimed master interpreter of Chinese music from the classical tradition (as contrasted with folk traditions) through numerous concerts, TV and radio appearances, and the worldwide distribution of 9 albums from Canadian and French labels, particularly the most recent award winning album "Le Son de Soie" under the French label Accords Croises and Harmonia Mundi. Liu Fang has performed solo recitals at festivals such as the International Bath Festival (UK, this festival is mainly for classical music), and in venues such as the Mermaid Theatre in London for a BBC concert (UK, 2004), the City Theatre (Theatre de la Ville) of Paris (France, 2006) and the Philharmonic Hall of Liege (Belgium, 2006), to mention but a few. Being the only solo artist performing traditional classical Chinese music with no accompaniment, usually in two sets of forty-five minutes each, Liu Fang, as well as her playing and presence on stage, has been described in the western mainstream media as a "divine mediator" (World Magazine, France, 2006), as "representing the charm, the grace, and above all the magic of the Orient" (Olonne-sur-Mer, Le journal Ouest-France, 2004), and as "Masterful, graceful and riveting" (BBC, 2004). She has been called "the empress of pipa ... one of the greatest virtuosos" (L'Actualité Magazine, Canada, 2001), and a "veritable ambassadress of the arts for pipa and guzheng" (La Presse, Montreal, 2001; Liberté de L'Est, 2004). The renowned musicologist, Prof. Tran Van Khe (master of traditional Vietnamese music, professor of the University of the Sorbonne in Paris) described Liu Fang's first solo recital in Paris in 1999 as "A veritable feast for the ears, eyes, heart and soul of a choice public, attentive and knowledgeable. With such an accomplished musician, the great technical hurdles are forgotten in passing effortlessly and serenely into a marvellous musical paradise". Liu Fang's art has received international recognition and has received prestigious awards from Canada (New Millennium Prize, Canada Council For The Arts, 2001) and France (The French Académie Charles Cros Award, the US equivalence of Grammy).

Chinese Classical music as an art often has thematic, poetic or philosophical classifications, comparable to western classical music. However, Chinese classical music is typically played solo, such as on the guqin, a 7-string zither, with over 3000 years of history, or the pipa, a lute with over 2000 years of history, because there are a lot of subtle sonorities and deep emotional expressions that rely on the left hand techniques (through, for instance, sliding, bending, pushing or crossing of the strings to produce typical singing effects and an extreme dynamical ranges), thus it making synchronized ensemble playing impossible. Ensemble playing, on the other hand, is usually associated with folk music such as the "silk and bamboo ensembles"? that are commonly found in South-East China, or accompanying local operas or dances.

Chinese classical music has been under-represented in the world (even within China) for many reasons. The principal reason was the disastrous so-called "Cultural Revolution"? in the 60s and 70s of the last century, which created a huge gap between the classical tradition and the present-day state of the arts. Today, outside of China, musicians of Chinese origin playing traditional instruments are mainly involved in contemporary music and world fusion music, as opposed to classical music. Needless to say that not every musician can deliver this ancient traditional music with a depth that can touch the souls of listeners; the interpretation of the classical repertoire requires more than just skill, although the demanding skill required is also an essential asset.

Liu Fang's performances have attracted the attention of western audiences. For those who have heard her play, it was a new discovery that has indeed changed the their stereotypes about Chinese traditional music, stereotypes which one commonly gets from some TV programs and films, or one commonly hears in a restaurant. Some of the pieces in Liu Fang's repertoire are rarely heard or played in China, let alone abroad. The pieces found on her demo CDs are just some examples that were recorded live at concerts. Liu Fang has a large repertoire, as demonstrated in the three volumes of pipa solo and one guzheng solo albums. There are still many other pieces which have yet to be recorded.

Press reviews:

"... Superb sensitivity and unrivaled dramaturgic feeling. ... By observing (her playing), one sees the love that unites her with the music; one feels the unison which resounds within her being and the instrument, and above all, one shares her deep joy..." - Mondomix, France, 2006.06

"... Liu Fang's total devotion to her playing has moved her beyond perfect execution to the creativity and flexibility that marks a true musi