The pipa ("pee-pa") is an iconic instrument in Chinese culture, and Twin Cities musician Gao Hong is a master of it.
She toured the United States 24 years ago with her legendary teacher Lin Shicheng, a man referred to as "the Ravi Shankar of the pipa." They paused in Minneapolis to make an album of duets on the lute-like instrument — sessions that Gao as "the biggest honor of my 49-year career."
The CD, "Hunting Eagles Catching Swans," garnered rave reviews and is being rereleased Sept. 23 by world music imprint ARC Music, to mark the 15th anniversary of Lin's passing.
In addition to the nine tracks on the original CD, the British-based label is adding a never-before-heard bonus: an arrangement of the traditional Chinese tune "Moonlight Over the Spring River."
"In 1996, at age 74, Lin recorded this masterfully in one take with no editing," Gao explains. "This is the only recording of this adaptation that exists, and it clearly displays how well Lin Shicheng could still play in the last decade of his life."
This month also sees Gao playing a recital in the online series "Look & Listen: Chinese Art and Music," hosted by the Smithsonian Institution and featuring images of Chinese ceramics and paintings.
Gao's performance is at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, and is free. Preregister at SI.edu for access.
Terry Blain is a freelance classical music critic for the Star Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.