Master of Pipa: Liu Dehai


Liu Dehai was born in Shanghai on August 13, 1937. As a reputed Pipa (lute) master in China, Liu is now committee member of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference commissioner of Chinese Democratic League's Central Committee, commissioner of Chinese Litterateur and Artists' Union, executive manager of Chinese Musician Association Performing Arts Committee and professor in China Conservatory.

In 1950, Liu began studying national musical instruments, such as Pipa(a plucked string instrument with a fretted fingerboard),Erhu(a two-stringed Chinese fiddle),Chinese trichord sanxian and bamboo flute at the age of thirteen. He started his study in 1954 under Lin Shicheng, a well-known Pipa player of Pudong School. Three years later, Liu was accepted by the Central Conservatory majoring in Pipa. Continuing his study under Lin Shicheng, he also learnt from Cao Anhe of Wuxi School, Sun Yude of Wang School, Yang Dajun of Pinghu School, enriching his performance with strong points of others. At the same time, he learned Qin(a zither-like seven-stringed instrument),Banhua nd double bass from the Qin player, Wu Jinglue. In 1960, Liu graduated in advance and stayed in the Conservatory as a teacher. In 1970, he became a Pipa soloist in the Central Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1984, he taught in China Conservatory and was appointed as professor and vice president in 1987.

When he first performed Surrounded on All Sides, Liu Dehai fell in love with the ancient melody. However, he felt that the melody could not fully express the fierceness of the Gaixia Battle between Xiang Yu and Liu Bang. Therefore, he decided to adapt it to picture the battle incisively and vividly. His adaptation brought into full play the characteristics of Pipa performances. He staged the adapted Surrounded on All Sides and made it a hit. From then on, people often unconsciously associated Surrounded on All Sides with the name of Liu Dehai. He took the adapted musical piece to the world stage, making people in the world know about Pipa and the profound Chinese culture as well.

Liu Dehai has visited scores of countries and districts throughout the world. In 1980 and 1981, his joint performance of a Pipa concerto named Litter Sisters on the Prairie with Boston Symphony Orchestra, West Berlin Symphony Orchestra and the renowned conductor Sciji Ozawa was ardently welcomed by both Chinese and foreign audiences.

To popularize traditional music, Liu Dehai arranged several songs like Liuyang River, Please Stay You Guests From Distance, The Song of Guerrilla and Bloom of Asters into Pipa solos. He also rearranged and adapted some traditional Pipa music such as The Overlord Took off His Armor, Chen Sui and A Moonlit Night in Xun Yang.

Liu composed many Pipa works full of philosophy, including Chapter of Life(consisting of The Swan, The Old Child, etc.),Chapter of Pastorale(consisting of Travel to Hometown, Zen of a Single Finagle, etc), and Chapter of Religion(consisting of Dropping Water Guanyin, Merry Arhat, etc.). These works marked his achievements in the search for new fingering of Pipa performance and new ideas in composition.