DEHAI LIU (1937 - 2020)
Born in Shanghai in 1937, Liu Dehai began to study the Chinese flute first at the age of 13, taking up the pipa four years later. His parents were not musicians but they encouraged his interest in music and the arts by taking him to the opera and the theatre, experiences which certainly helped to accelerate his artistic development. He graduated from the Central Conservatory of Music in 1961 and from then on, he performed to critical acclaim in over thirty countries. Liu divided his time between performance and teaching. Apart from playing pipa solo at the Central Philharmonic Orchestra, he also taught at the Central Conservatory of Music, followed by China Conservatory, and visited schools and universities, giving ricitals and demonstrations on the playing of the instrument. Although Liu was on a crusade to save China from a full-scale invasion by popular music, he himself was not really a traditionalist. In the 70s and 80s, he made a major contribution to the development of the pipa by applying Western-style fingering techniques which had greatly expanded the instrument’s range of expression. As a result he was sometimes criticized by the “old guard”, who believed that traditional music should be preserved in its original form. He has made a number of recordings in China. The best-known recording in the West is certainly the Little Sisters of the Grassland Pipa Concerto, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa.