Wu Man Performs With Charlotte Symphony (Plus: The Weekday Roundup)

STEPHEN KAHN

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 found here (with noon and 6 p.m. performances).


Now, let's see what's happening on the Weekday Roundup: 

MEWITHOUTYOU
The indie rock band marks the 10th birthday of Catch for Us the Foxes, a seminal selection of the post-hardcore genre. They’re joined by fellow rockers The Appleseed Cast and Hop Along, which both of their own respective fanbases.

JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER ORCHESTRA WITH WYNTON MARSALIS
The high-profile jazz orchestra, led by Wynton Marsalis, comes to the Belk Theater, playing selections penned by Coltrane, Ellington, and Mr. Marsalis himself. The group consists of 15 jazz soloists, each known as a powerhouse in his or her instrument.

TAKING BACK SUNDAY
Taking Back Sunday plays this hometown show after the 2014 release of Happiness Is. The single “Flicker Fade” shows that the band hasn’t lost its talent for catchy hooks and crescendos. Modern Baseball and The Wonder Years are also on the line-up. 

DANGEROUS LIAISONS
Sasha Janes is the choreographer behind this Charlotte Ballet production, with original music written by cellist Ben Sollee. The musician, suspended from the ceiling, also gets involved with the theatrics.

Categories: Arts + Culture, Revue