LSM Newswire

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Lan Weiwei: Creating a bridge between ancient and modern times, joining the East and the West

Toronto, April 29, 2014 - Following her successful Toronto debut with New Music Concerts in 2007, artistic director Robert Aitken is pleased to announce that pipa virtuoso Lan Weiwei (in Chinese 兰维薇) will return for two events in May. She will give a solo recital at Gallery 345 on May 17 as a fundraiser for New Music Concerts, and will be the featured soloist in NEW BEIJING- NMC’s contribution to the inaugural 21C Music Festival hosted by the Royal Conservatory of Music on May 21 in Mazzoleni Hall. Lan was born in Sichuan, China in 1980. 

Over the course of her 20-year long career, she has won a multitude of prizes since childhood and is currently considered one of the foremost pipa players in China. In recent years, Lan has been invited to perform in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Canada, Mexico, Vietnam and Indonesia, to only name a few.

The Chinese pipa, a four-string plucked lute, descends from West and Central Asian prototypes and appeared in China during the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534). Traveling over ancient trade routes, it brought not only a new sound but also new repertoires and musical theory. Originally it was held horizontally like a guitar and its twisted silk strings were plucked with a large triangular plectrum held in the right hand. The word pipa describes the plectrum's plucking strokes: pi, "to play forward," pa, "to play backward." During the Tang dynasty (618–906), musicians gradually began using their fingernails to pluck the strings, and to hold the instrument in a more upright position. First thought to be a foreign and somewhat improper instrument, it soon won favor in court ensembles but today it is well known as a solo instrument whose repertoire is a virtuosic and programmatic style that may evoke images of nature or battle.  Source: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/pipa/hd_pipa.htm

From the very start of her artistic career Lan Weiwei has dedicated herself to introducing the traditional and folk music of China to the Western world. In addition, she has an intense passion for playing contemporary music written for her instrument – solo pieces, ensemble music and concertos with symphony orchestra etc. She has collaborated with numerous orchestras in China and has been a featured soloist in Taipei, Estonia, Freiburg and Toronto. Through her pipa music has become a bridge between ancient and modern times as well as between the East and the West. Lan teaches at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China where she also directs the contemporary music program.

New Music Concerts is very proud to have been invited to perform the opening concert of the inaugural 21C Music Festival.  For this occasion, NMC has commissioned new works featuring pipa by Beijing composers Guoping Jia andXiaoyong Chen with the financial support of The Royal Conservatory and Roger D. Moore.

Jia (b.1963) completed his music studies at the Shanxi Jin opera academy in Taiyuan in 1984 and later attended the Central Conservatory in Beijing. From 1994 to 1998 he studied composition at the Stuttgart Musikhochschule and participated in the 1996 Darmstadt festival. Since 1998 he has been professor of composition and analysis at the Central Conservatory in Beijing. Chen (b.1955) also studied composition at the Central Conservatory in Beijing and later under György Ligeti in Hamburg. He celebrated his European debut as a composer in 1987 at the Donaueschingen Music Days and he belongs to a small group of Chinese composers who have aroused great attention on an international scale. In 2010 Chen was appointed Guest Professor of New Music, Composition and Chinese Musical Culture at the Academy of Music and Theatre in Hamburg. The concert will also include a selection of works for solo pipa and Toronto composer Alexina Louie’s Imaginary Opera commissioned by the Montréal Nouvelles Musiques festival where it was first performed by Ensemble Court-Circuit in 2004. These ‘scenes from an imaginary opera’ (an imagined ghost opera) reveal my long-standing pre-occupation with an integration of Eastern and Western approaches in my music”, explains Louie.  “Much of my music develops from the philosophy of (extreme) contrast and balance rooted in the principles of Yin and Yang”. 

Hosted by the Royal Conservatory of Music, the inaugural 21C Music Festivaltakes place May 21-25, 2014. Today’s most innovative and fearless musicians and composers bring fresh new sounds and ideas at the newly minted festival. Festival passes, tickets, and information: visit: http://www.rcmusic.ca/media/news-releases/21c-music-festival www.performance.rcmusic.ca/21c

An Intimate Evening with Lan Weiwei: Saturday May 17 at 7:30 at Gallery 345, Toronto
A performance to benefit New Music Concerts featuring traditional, folkloric and contemporary music for solo pipa plus a sneak preview of a Roger D. Moore commission for pipa and flute by Xiaoyong Chen. Lan Weiwei, pipa;
Robert Aitken, flute.
Gallery 345, 345 Sorauren Ave. 416-961-9594.
Tickets $100 ($150 for two) include fine food and complimentary beverages, with charitable receipt. Doors Open at 7:30, Festivities Commence at 8:00.

New Beijing: Wednesday May 21 at 8:00PM at Mazzoleni Hall
Inaugurating the 21C Music Festival at The Royal Conservatory
New Music Concerts at 21C Music Festival: New Beijing with Lan Weiwei. Guoping Jia: New Work; Xiaoyong Chen: Talking through DistanceEvapora; Alexina Louie:Imaginary Opera; works for solo pipa. Lan Weiwei, pipa;
Robert Aitken, flute and direction; New Music Concerts Ensemble. Mazzoleni Concert Hall in Ihnatowycz Hall, 273 Bloor St. West. 416-408-0208. Illuminating Introduction at 7:15.
For tickets: $32; $25 (senior/arts worker), please visit:

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