Pipa master mesmerises audience in Hong Kong concert

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 December, 2014, 2:48am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 December, 2014, 7:13am

In Praise of Elegance
Lui Pui-yuen pipa-guqin recital
Grand Hall, HKU

With flawless technique and depth, a classical music grandmaster shows how his art has seasoned with age.

Lui Pui-yuen, a living legend in traditional Chinese music, treated a packed house yesterday to his time-honoured mastery in not one but two musical instruments. A total of 10 works for pipa and guqin were played with not artificial but genuine, tape-free fingernails.

The 82-year-old master opened the recital with a pair of works for solo pipa, a pear-shaped lute that drew Lui to music in Shanghai 70 years ago. The mellow rhythm and gentle pluck were distinctly Jiangnan style from eastern China.

The ancient melody, Music at the Frontier, expressed heartfelt melancholy for a while, until a change in tempo transformed the piece into a brief march played with slight agitation. It was as much a work depicting the homesick sentiment of a Han Dynasty princess married to a Hun for the sake of peace as Lui's relocation to the United States 40 years ago. After the pipa, the master proceeded to the guqin, a seven-string zither, from which he produced some of the most exquisite sounds. In Three Variations of Plum Blossom, he struck the harmonics passage with extraordinary pianissimo, an effect that left the audience breathless.

The octogenarian's accuracy and precision in his left-handed glissando was equally impressive. In Flowing Waters, he took the harmonics to a high register that was barely audible. The multi-string slide produced a spectacular soundscape.

Then the music turned introspective in Remembrance of an Old Friend, showing the free style of the guqin at its best in depicting elements of the past.

The solitude gave way to company as Lui was joined by his students to form a trio for three works. Though the three played in unison, the augmented sound brought out vibrancy.

The audience was only willing to call it a day after two encores. One was White Snow in Spring Sunlight.