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Wu Man Performs With Charlotte Symphony

Oct 6, 2014

Wu Man was introduced to her instrument at the age of 9. While most young musicians with a classical interest gravitate toward piano and violin, Man was paired with the pipa. Of course, the initial nudge toward the ancient, plucked instrument came from her parents. "It's an old and traditional instrument," Man says. "My father just thought it's such a symbol of culture and history of China. Also, the instrument's shape is beautiful and elegant, and it's also beautiful to hold for a young girl."

Since that fateful first meeting, Man developed a career around the pipa. Her education and performances have taken her around the world, with collaborations with high-profile entities Kronos Quartet and Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project. On Oct. 10-11, she performs with the Charlotte Symphony at the Belk Theater. In each project and performance, she brings a sound only possible using her instrument, but audiences are still not all familiar with the pipa.

"Especially if I play in the States, I guarantee 80-percent of audiences never heard of it," Man says, adding that many have approached her with adoration for its sounds after concerts.

Man's reputation is built on her versatility with the instrument. It's the reason she was "Instrumentalist of the Year" by Musical America, the oldest U.S. magazine focusing on classical music. "She is the very model of a modern soloist, but more importantly, her work is part of a big step in the evolution of Western classical music," the magazine said. "Thanks to her, the pipa is no longer an exotic curiosity, let alone a complete mystery." She was the first performer of a non-Western instrument to garner the honor.

For the Belk Theater performance, Man plays Zhao Jiping's "Concerto for Pipa," a piece that the famed Chinese composer wrote specifically for her. Jiping, known best for his film scores, incorporated aspects of Man's hometown, Hangzhou, into the untitled concerto.

"My role is one of storyteller," Man says. "The orchestra is supporting the storyteller. And every time we play it, I get goosebumps."

Get tickets to the Charlotte Symphony performances here. On Tuesday, Man performs at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art as part of the Music and Museum series. East Meets West features both a solo Man and a performance with the Honors Quartet of UNC School of the Arts. Tickets for the Bechtler events can be foundhere (with noon and 6 p.m. performances).

Article at Charlotte Magazine