|Liu Fang's Passionate Pipa|
Paula: What are the biggest challenges of playing the pipa and guzheng?Liu Fang: The biggest challenge is to fully express the soul of pipa and guzheng music in EVERY concert. To give a good concert today doesn't mean that the concert tomorrow would also be as good. To have given 100 excellent concerts doesn't guarantee that it would be always excellent in the future. This is a constant challenge more for the heart than for the skill. This means that one needs always to learn to keep the heart in such a state as to give the music its life. For this, one needs to learn many things besides music. I believe this is true for all kinds of music. The pipa has existed in China for over 2000 years and its playing techniques are fully developed and are very complicated. To master these techniques is a challenge. For instance, the tremolo with five fingers played from inside toward outside ("Lun" in Chinese) can be used as one of the most important criteria to judge whether the player has mastered the instrument. The five fingers should give a clean sound with equal strength. This needs a lot of practice and talent. If this technique is not good enough, the pipa sounds very uncomfortable. In this case, there is no chance to interpret classical Chinese pipa music. The repertoire for pipa is comparatively large with some pieces handed down from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). There are several pipa schools in history with each having their special ways of interpreting the classical pieces. The traditional scores combine symbols representing pitches and finger techniques. There are many nuances in the music which cannot be put into the musical scores. Chinese classical music by nature is very individual in character. The interpretation depends on the performer's understanding of the tradition and the personal experience. There is no way to tell whose interpretation is the standard. Thus, the biggest challenge is how to respect the tradition while keeping my own character. The judgment for good music should be left to the audience. Good music should touch the heart and bring spiritual elevation. The same is with the guzheng. However, the guzheng is my second instrument. In my solo recitals, one third of the concert are guzheng solo pieces, intended to introduce classical guzheng music.
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