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Listening to Liu Fang, we follow the pipa back to its origins amongst itinerant instruments. It becomes once again the travelling companion of the caravaneers of the Silk Road, singing out the nomadic soul of the lutes of central Asia in their hey-day. Liu Fangs artistic technique harks back to a period in history in which the lute underwent a number of structural transformations and was called by a range of names. Knowing at the time no boundaries it sang of freedom and the open road. In China, the two thousand well-documented years of history of this instrument, once favoured by the Confucians, continue to live under the fingers of Liu Fang, with the kind of grace that inspired the Ballad of the Lute by the poet Bai Juyi (772-846 BC): The stronger strings resonate like a sudden shower of rain, the finer ones like a suppressed sigh. Together they create a melody like mingled pearls tumbling onto a jade tray. With Liu Fang all problems seem to just melt away; her very virtuosity renders us oblivious of virtuosity. With her finger-tips clad in plectra, we are led by her power and grace into a world free of technical difficulty and stylistic pedantry. The lightness, the rustling of notes which harmonise wonderfully with her playing conjure up easy and familiar images: flowers, mist, snow-flakes, metal, raindrops, a river, galloping horse, fire under the icean articulation between natural reality and the world of suggestion.