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Concert: The Knights with Wu Man

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So I heard a promo for this randomly on the radio. I tend to tune radio promos out, but the pipa caught my ear. I became actively interested in Chinese music about 5 years ago when I first heard Cold Fairyland (a Chinese pipa-led prog band). I knew Wu Man's name, but I don't know if I'd ever heard her play. Anyway, I was intrigued, and tickets were cheap-ish, so I went to see it.

Apparently the Knights are a somewhat casual chamber orchestra based in NYC that have collaborated with others in the past. I'm not sure how they ended up hooking up with Wu Man to come all the way out to Madison, WI (they didn't seem like they were on tour or anything), I don't really know. But whatever!

The concert was great. They played five pieces, two of which featured Wu Man. For me, the highlight was the concerto for Pipa and Orchestra, filled with lots of color and emotion, and throughout which Wu Man got to display her dazzling talents on the pipa. The other highlight was a Stravinsky suite, apparently influenced by Bach. Despite being only a somewhat casual aficionado of classical music, I recognized Stravinsky's compositional stamp, and Bach's structural influence (including the fugue-like final movement). Cool stuff. They also played a well-known Debussy piece .. I forget what it's called, something about a Faun? The one with the flute melody. Anyway. Lovely stuff.

Another thing that stuck out was the affect of the orchestra members themselves. They mostly played standing up (except cellists and I think the bassoonist), and emoted very freely. My girlfriend commented, it was like they playing with their whole bodies. Very cool.

A++ would listen again.

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  1. wideopenears's Avatar
    Nice review. I like Pipa --and I like Wu Man, she's adventurous. There's another Pipa player, whose name I can't recall know, something Feng-Lee, maybe, who is also great. Worth checking out, though more traditional. I've not heard Cold Fairyland, but should check it out! thanks!