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MP3 Wendy Wen Zhao and Lucas Harris - Lute Legends: Ancient Airs From East and West

World Music & Early Music crossover

14 MP3 Songs in this album (57:04) !
Related styles: WORLD: Chinese traditional, CLASSICAL: Early Music

This CD was generously funded by an artist development grant from the Ontario Arts Council.

Recorded February 2008, St. John Chrysostom Catholic Church (Newmarket, ON)
Recording engineer & producer: Norbert Kraft
Digital Editing: Lucas Harris
Booklet design: Rose Zhao
Photography: Terry Williams
13-course Baroque lute after Jauch (Michael Schreiner, 2006)
13-course Baroque lute after Frei (Michael Schreiner, 2001): tracks 3&4

Lucas Harris began his musical life as a jazz guitarist in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. After graduating summa cum laude from Pomona College, he studied for a year in Milan, Italy as one of the first Marco Fodella Foundation scholars and then at the Hochschule für Künste Bremen. Lucas now keeps a busy schedule as a continuo player for dozens of Baroque ensembles across North America. He is the regular lutenist with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and has been living in Toronto since early 2004. Lucas is a regular on the faculty for the Oberlin Conservatory''s Baroque Performance Institute and the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, and has also taught for Amherst Early Music, the International Baroque Institute at Longy, and the New York Continuo Collective. He is a founder of the Toronto Continuo Collective, a weekly class and performing ‘pluck band’ dedicated to the art of seventeenth-century accompaniment. Beyond continuo work, recent solo and directing projects include a concerto program for CBC radio’s Young Artist Series, a recital for the Minnesota Guitar Society, a production of Cavalli’s La Calisto at Ohio State University, and a program with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in Vancouver. Lucas was praised for his work with Les voix humaines in Montréal: “The revelation of the concert was the Torontonian lutenist Lucas Harris, who weaved a poetic thread through his infinitely subtle interventions. The sweetness and patience of his playing . . . was astonishing.” (Le Devoir)

Wen Zhao is an internationally acclaimed pipa virtuoso, a sensitive and lyrical performer. Born in Beijing, she began to study the pipa at the age of seven, eventually completing her university study with the renowned pipa master Wang Fan Di. After winning the first prize at Beijing Youth National Instrument Competition in 1995, Wen continued her musical career in England, performing and teaching Chinese music throughout the U.K. Wen lives in Toronto since 1997, and teaches pipa at both the Royal Conservatory of Music and York University in Toronto. Zhao has appeared at major ethnic music festivals worldwide; including those in China, Switzerland, the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. These appearances deeply impressed the audience and were highly acclaimed by the media: BBC TV, CBC TV, CBC radio and OMNI TV have all broadcasted her solo performances. The Toronto Star and several Chinese media groups have interviewed her to showcase her masterful pipa playing. Beyond her work as a soloist, Zhao has collaborated with some world’s top Western ensembles, including Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, London Grand Union Orchestra, and the Accordes String Quartet. She is especially honoured to be one of the featured musicians for the CBC award-winning documentary film The Four Seasons Mosaic.

The Duo

Wen and Lucas met through the many performances of ‘The Four Seasons: A Cycle of the Sun,’ a Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra concert/touring program and CBC documentary designed by Tafelmusik bassist Alison Mackay which juxtaposes Vivaldi’s famous concerto cycle with other eighteenth-century music about nature from three non-European traditions. This program has toured Canada, the United States, and China.

The two decided to embark on a project that would juxtapose the traditions of European and Chinese lute performance: both the many similarities (their common ancestor from the Middle East, their noble social status, their similar shape and design, and that both have a very ancient history and a strong body of surviving repertoire from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) as well as their differences (especially the astonishing capacity of the pipa’s four simple strings for melodic shape, color, and descriptive textures versus the lute’s tradition of counterpoint and harmony, supported by many pairs of double courses of strings including deep bass notes).

The two have performed duet arrangements in several Toronto venues: on the ‘Musically Speaking’ series at Trinity Church, the Toronto Harbourfront Music Garden series, and at the Music Gallery in a recital sponsored by Baroque Music Beside the Grange and the Chinese Artists’ Society of Toronto. They also performed in China at the Beijing Natural History Museum and the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. They also created the duo program ''Lettres chinoises'' which was performed at the Montreal Baroque Festival in July 2008.

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