Spring River Flower Moon Night
The 12,000 year-old pipa is an exhilarating instrument to hear in the solo context, and Nanjing, China-born Min Xiao Fen is one of the instrument's finest artists. Her debut CD features music from both the Wen and Wu schools, the former a lyrical, sublime tradition, and the latter more flairing and intense in scope and nature. Like the progression of natural phenomena of Min's CD title, the music here contracts and expands, moving from large, lush runs across the pipa to slow, methodically minute plucks and single notes. Min mesmerizes both with the grand gesture and the telescoped precision of her every note, giving this CD a crystalline clarity that retains powerful warmth. There aren't many playing the difficult pipa with Min's dexterity and intellectual energy, and she makes these aged repertory classics shine with new life. --Andrew Bartlett
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I personally tend to favor the WEN style over the WU. The WEN style stuff is just flat-out gorgeous more often than not. The WU has more of an explosive, in-your-faceness to it that I enjoy, but it doesn't move me as deeply as the WEN.
If you have heard the Viper disc, these are 2 very different discs. Viper being all free-improvisation, while here you get a mini, sonic history of China. Sometimes gorgeous and gentle, sometimes violent and overwhelming... it's all here.
Then again, if you've never heard the pipa, or Min in particular, this is the perfect place to begin.
Personally I felt that she over stressed the powerfulness of the instrument at times. As a result, the melody of some of the pieces are not as smooth as it was written to be. If you are looking for "easy-listening" this is not the album you want to buy.