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Liu Fang is one of the most renowned pipa players outside of China (the pipa is a traditional Chinese lute). Living in Montreal since 1996, she has performed concerts in America, Europe, and the Far East. She possesses virtuoso technique, grace, and a unique empathy toward the music she plays — whether it is a traditional folk tune or a modern Western composition. Fang has recorded and/or performed the Chinese traditional pipa repertoire, modern compositions by Chinese composers (Tan Dun, Zhou Long), and premiered new works for the pipa by R. Murray Schafer and Melissa Hui.
Born in 1974 to a family of artists, Fang was a child prodigy. Her mother, an actress, took her to rehearsals, and at the age of six, she began to learn the pipa, a particularly big and difficult instrument. She gave her first public performance at nine and started to win provincial competitions. In 1985, at age 11, she performed for the Queen of England and three years later won first prize at the National Competition for Young Musicians. At age 15 she was accepted at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music where she studied pipa and guzheng (a Chinese zither) for three years. Upon graduation she went back to her hometown of Kunming to perform with the local music and dance troupe.
Despite support from the Chinese government, traditional music is often seen as more of the necessary furniture rather than an art form, and Fang was beginning to feel she could touch foreign listeners on a deeper level than her compatriots. After a trip to Germany in 1995 where she performed with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, she emigrated to Canada with her husband and settled in Montreal. She immediately made contacts in the city's Chinese district and began to perform. Erhu player Lei Qiang led her to Paul Etch, owner of the record label Oliver Sudden Productions. He released her first CD, Chinese Traditional Pipa Music, in 1997. Two years later, Fang's husband gave up his job as a meteorologist to manage her growing career. Since her arrival in Canada, the pipa player has received strong support from the community. The national radio has recorded many of her concerts. In 2001 she was awarded the Future Generations Millennium Prize, a one-time prize given by the government to three artists in different disciplines (music, literature, and visual arts). In February 2000 she toured with Kohei Nishikawa's ensemble. In September 2001 she premiered R. Murray Schafer's "The Palace of the Cinnabar Phoenix." She has also performed with the Nouvel Ensemble Modern and the Société de Musique Contemporaine du Québec. ~ François Couture, Rovi