East Meets West in Chamber Concert Featuring ‘Empress of Pipa’

Liu Fang

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – China’s “Empress of Pipa” Liu Fang will trade fours with young Israeli violinist Hagai Shaham in “Trade Winds: From China With Love,” a celebration of traditional Chinese classical music, as part of the Close Encounters With Music series on Saturday, April 21, 2012, at 6 p.m. at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. The concert will include a premiere of Green by recent Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Zhou Long, in a new version for cello and pipa featuring Close Encounters artistic director Yehuda Hanani on cello.

Before multiculturalism and today’s penchant for fusion, the musical dialogue between East and West existed in the music of Debussy, Ravel, and the American avant-garde. “Trade Winds” also includes Bulgarian pianist Emma Tahmizian playing Ravel’s Mother Goose and Leo Ornstein’s remarkable A la Chinoise, while Israeli violinist Hagai Shaham offers Debussy’s pentatonic-inflected Sonata and Fritz Kreisler’s Tambourin Chinois.  He also performs a work from another ancient tradition – Joseph Achron’s haunting Hebrew Melody.

Originally written for Chinese bamboo flute and pipa in 1983, Zhou Long’s Green was adapted for cello and pipa in 2011. Zhou Long elaborates on the intent of the work: “Heaven is blue, Earth yellow, and green all the plants they nurture. Green symbolizes the spirit of life. The music is exquisitely provocative, and its sound filling the distant space evokes the communion between man and nature.”

The pipa has existed in China for over 2,000 years. Liu Fang compares classical Chinese music to Chinese poetry, lyric drama and calligraphy: “Chinese calligraphy has been regarded as the highest art form in our tradition. Indeed, great calligraphy gives me immense inspiration. The dynamics and movement of strokes of the brush, the line and the points, and the whole structure, are all comparable.”

As a child prodigy in her native China, and now as a resident of Canada, Liu Fang has been regarded as one of the eminent pipa soloists in the world. She is also an excellent proponent of the Guzheng, or Chinese zither. Her talent crosses all boundaries, linguistic and cultural: She regularly performs solo recitals of Chinese traditional and classical music as well as contemporary music with orchestras, string quartets and varying ensembles and has premiered new compositions – works of Canada’s leading composers R. Murray Schafer and Jose Evangelista among others.

Highly acclaimed for her “Silk and Steel” projects in which she collaborates with world class musicians from various traditions, she has released nine solo and collaborative albums. Her most recent recording, Silk Sound, for the French Label Accords Crosses, won the prestigious Académie Charles Cros (the French equivalent of the Grammy).

Hagai Shaham

Displaying a dazzling combination of technical brilliance and an intensely musical personality, Hagai Shaham is internationally recognized as one of the astonishing young violinists who have emerged from Israel in recent years.

In September 1990, Shaham and his duo partner, Arnon Erez, won first prize at the ARD International Music Competition in Munich in the Violin-Piano duo category, the first competitors to be awarded this coveted prize since 1971. As a soloist, Shaham has performed with many of the world’s major orchestras, among them the English Chamber Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; with the Taipei, Singapore and Shanghai Symphony Orchestras, and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta. In 1985 he was invited to join Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zukerman Brahms’ Double Concerto at Carnegie Hall. In 2006 he performed this work again under Mehta, at the Israel Philharmonic 70th anniversary’s celebrations with cellist Misha Maisky. Mr. Shaham has recorded for Decca International, Chandos, Biddulph, Naxos, and Hyperion and served on the faculty of the Thornton School of Music at USC, Los Angeles.

Bulgarian native Emma Tahmiziàn made her debut as a soloist with orchestra at thirteen, and her international career was launched at nineteen, when she won First Prize in the Robert Schumann International Competition in Germany and gave her Berlin debut in the legendary Maxim Gorki Theatre. Tahmiziàn has concertized throughout Europe and North America. She has collaborated with first violinist of the Juilliard Quartet Joel Smirnoff, violist Kim Kashkashian, cellists Yehuda Hanani, Fred Sherry, and Matt Haimovitz, and soprano Bethany Beardslee.

Cellist Yehuda Hanani is founder and artistic director of Close Encounters With Music. His engaging chamber music with commentary has captivated audiences from Miami to Kansas City, Omaha, Calgary, Scottsdale, the Berkshires, and at the Frick Collection in New York City. A three-time recipient of the Martha Baird Rockefeller grant, he appears with orchestras and on the recital stage on five continents. He has been the subject of hundreds of articles and interviews in the media, and his weekly program on NPR affiliate station WAMC Northeast Radio, “Classical Music According to Yehuda” attracts thousands of fans. Professor of Cello at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, he also directs the High Peaks Festival, a teaching and chamber music festival in Hunter, New York. He has appeared as soloist with leading orchestras around the world, with eminent colleagues, and has championed some of the most influential composers of our times.

An on-stage Afterglow Reception for the audience and artists follows the performance.

Tickets are $40/$30. Contact the Mahaiwe Box Office at 413.528.0100/14 Castle Street, Great Barrington, or visit Close Encounters With Music.

Mahaiwe Box Office: 413.528.0100
CEWM: 800.843.0778




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