About this Recording
8.225824 - Pipa Recital: Lam, Fung (Popular Pipa Music - Hurrying to the Flower Show)
English  Chinese 

Popular Pipa Music

The pipa is one of the most popular Chinese instruments. In form it resembles a pear-shaped lute, but the use of Western instrument names to describe Chinese instruments can be misleading. The term “lute” is, incidentally, also used by some to describe the horizontal plucked instrument, the Qin, an instrument for the scholar and gentleman in earlier times.

The pipa is said to have derived its name from its sound. The pi was played from right to left, the pa from left to right, upwards. This form of instrument was foreign in origin but by the time of the building of the Great Wall of China, it had come into fairly wide use. The earliest surviving example is from the eighth century A. D., and certainly in the time of the Tang Dynasty (A. D. 618–906) it enjoyed very great popularity.

The pipa generally has four strings and sixteen frets, in the manner of a four-stringed guitar, but there are other varieties, with numbers of strings varying from 2 to 13, and a variable number of frets. As is usual in Chinese music, there is symbolism even in the four strings, which represent the four seasons. It forms an important element in the group of instruments traditionally classified under “silk”, from the material out of which its strings are made.

Hurrying to the Flower Show
Ye Xuran

Hurrying to the Flower Show describes an important festival in Sichuan. Every year people from round about gather for the flower show.

The music is based on a Sichuan folk tune, “Picking Flowers”. It opens with the melody of the folk-song, well suited to the pipa, the Chinese lute. A short scherzo-like section follows and this ends with the repetition of the folk tune. Here the pipa is treated percussively, as it usually is in accompanying this folk-song. A lively second section shows the scene at the flower show, one of happiness and excitement, with dancing and singing. A contrasting lyric theme leads to the final part, where the main theme leads to the concluding section with the principal melody heard once again.

Progress March
Liu Tianhua

Liu Tianhua (1895–1932) was a reformer who specialised in nationalism in Chinese music, while studying also the music of the West. In 1927 he set up a Chinese Music Reformation Group in Beijing. At the same time he planned to publish a musical magazine. The present work Progress March was written to mark the establishment of the group. It falls naturally into two sections, the first solemn, the second lively.

Spring Morning at the Green Lake
Nie Er

Nie Er was a leading musician in China in the 1930s, well known, in particular, for his vocal compositions, while also composing for Chinese folk-instruments.

Spring Morning at the Green Lake was written in 1934 and was originally scored for Chinese orchestra. It describes the scenery of the composers home at Yunnan and is, musically, in three sections, the first gentle, the second robust and the third lively.

Wang Zhaojun
Hua Yanjun (Ah Bing)

Hua Yanjun (1893–1950) was born in Wu Xi. In Wang Zhaojun he depicts the famous heroine of the Han Dynasty, who, in order to save the country from attack by the Mongolians, was prepared to marry the Mongolian Khan. The music is in three sections, the first describing Wang Zhaojun, the second her departure and the third the conclusion of the episode.

Walking along a Sichuan Path
Yang Daijun

The famous Tang poet Li Taipo wrote about the roads of Sichuan, describing their roughness, comparing treading such roads to the process of reaching the heavens on foot, an impossible achievement. Walking along a Sichuan Path describes the fine scenery of the province rather than the hardships of Li Taopo’s verse.

Bo Er Hua Ka Boat Song
arr. Liu Dehai

Bo Er Hua Ka Boat Song is an Irish song in triple time, in which the pipa is used in place of a guitar.

Petals among the Leaves

Petals among the Leaves makes use of the gentler possibilities of the pipa, relying largely on the dexterity of the left hand. It belongs to a series known as Twelve Gentle Pieces and depicts a scene in winter.

King Chu Doffs His Armour

King Chu Doffs His Armour makes use of the same story as the well-known work Ambush on All Sides, music that describes the war between King Chu and Liu Bang. The work is in fourteen sections: Drums; Pitching Camp; Counting the Soldiers; Organising the Army; Planning; Setting Out; Battle; Fighting at Gaixia; Chu Song; Farewell; Sounds of War; Sudden Attack; Pursuit of the Enemy and Returning Home. The music treats the episodes of the campaign more introspectively than Ambush on All Sides.

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