May 22, 2017
Pipa Virtuoso Wu Man and the Shanghai Quartet to Perform Traditional and Contemporary Chinese Music at the Park Avenue Armory on June 20 & 21
Ben Doyle

NEW YORK, NEW YORK (May 22, 2017) — Following acclaimed performances last month at Lincoln Center’s Rose Studio, pipa virtuoso Wu Man and her longtime collaborators the Shanghai Quartet return to New York for a program that blends the traditional music of China with contemporary works by Chinese composers, performed at the Park Avenue Armory on Tuesday, June 20, and Wednesday, June 21, at 7:30 p.m. The program comprises a solo pipa performance by Wu Man; Chinese folk music arrangements by Quartet violinist Yi-Wen Jiang, for string quartet alone (Chinasong) and for pipa and string quartet together (Chinese Folk Song Suite); Zhou Long’s Song of the Ch'in for string quartet; and Tan Dun’s Concerto for String Quartet and Pipa.

Tickets are $45 and can be purchased at the Armory’s website (armoryonpark.org) or at (212) 933-5812.

Wu Man and the Shanghai Quartet, whose founding members were her former schoolmates at the Central Conservatory in Beijing, have long collaborated in efforts to cultivate a Western audience for contemporary and traditional Chinese music. Their program at the Park Avenue Armory draws upon repertoire from their 2015-16 North American tour, A Night in Ancient and New China.

Each of the two concerts opens with a pipa solo played by Wu Man, followed by the Quartet performing four selections from Yi-Wen Jiang’s Chinasong (1989). This set of pieces comprises arrangements of “traditional Chinese folk songs and popular music [whose] themes speak to the individual listener because they are expressive, direct and easily understood,” according to the composer.

Yi-Wen Jiang also arranged the Chinese Folk Song Suite in which the pipa and string quartet are heard together. The composer writes:

[The first movement, “Butterfly Love,”] uses a famous love story as a theme, adopting a wealth of our opera music performance practices, combined with the Western genre of the concerto.  The use of charming melodies, lively music images, strong ethnic style, and distinctive local characteristics, made this work deeply rooted in people's hearts. … The use of folk materials of China's minority nationalities was extremely popular among Chinese composers during 1960-1980. [The second movement, “Yao Dance”,] was originally written by Mao Yuan and Tie-Shan Liu, based on a folk song of Yao, a mountain village in GuiZhou, in the southwest region of China.

The full ensemble of pipa and string quartet is heard again in Tan Dun’s 1999 concerto, based on his 1994 work Ghost Opera for the same instrumentation, composed for Wu Man and the Kronos Quartet. She and the Kronos Quartet recorded the five-movement Ghost Opera for a 1997 release on Nonesuch, and since then Wu Man has also added the concerto arrangement of the work—based on earlier version for string orchestra and pipa—to her repertoire. “Set in four movements to be performed without pause,” say the program notes, “the [concerto] opens with elements of minimalism, includes different styles of American dance rhythms, uses Bach quotations, and highlights Chinese elements drawn out of the pipa solos.”

The Shanghai Quartet also performs Zhou Long’s string quartet Song of the Chi’in (1982), which evokes the gestures and sound world of the chi’in, a traditional Chinese seven-stringed, plucked zither.

Wu Man is the world’s premier pipa virtuoso. As a soloist, educator, and composer, she has given her lute-like instrument—which has a history of over 2,000 years in China—a new role in both traditional and contemporary music. She 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 collaborations with musicians from wide-ranging artistic disciplines allow her to reach diverse audiences as she works to break through cultural and musical borders. For more information, visitwumanpipa.org.

The Shanghai Quartet (violinists Weigang Li and Yi-Wen Jiang, violist Honggang Li, and cellist Nicholas Tzavaras) is renowned for passionate musicality and impressive technique that melds the delicacy of Eastern music with the emotional breadth of Western repertoire. Formed at the Shanghai Conservatory in 1983, they have performed throughout Europe, Asia, North and South America, from the Beijing International Music Festival to Carnegie Hall. They currently serve as Quartet-in-Residence at the John J. Cali School of Music, Montclair State University. For more information, visit shanghaiquartet.com.

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Tuesday, June 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Wednesday, June 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Thompson Arts Center at Park Avenue Armory (643 Park Avenue)
Board of Officers Room

Wu Man, pipa
Shanghai Quartet
     Weigang Li, violin
     Yi-Wen Jiang, violin
     Honggang Li, viola
     Nicholas Tzavaras, cello

WU MAN  Pipa solo
TRADITIONAL, arr. YI-WEN JIANG  Selections from Chinasong, for string quartet
   “Reflection of the Moon in the Er-Quan Spring”
   “Morning of Miao Mountain”
   “Shepherd’s Song”
   “Harvest Celebration”
TRADITIONAL, arr. YI-WEN JIANG  Chinese Folk Song Suite for Pipa and String Quartet
   “Butterfly Love,” by He Zhanghao & Chen Gang
   “Yao Dance,” by Mao Yuan & Liu Tie-Shan
ZHOU LONG  Song of the Ch’in, for string quartet
TAN DUN  Concerto for String Quartet and Pipa

Tickets are $45 and can be purchased at the Armory’s website (armoryonpark.org) or at (212) 933-5812.

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National press contact:
Shuman Associates
shumanpr@shumanassociates.net | (212) 315-1300

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