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Elisabeth Hon Hunt, Soprano

Killian Hall, MIT

March 13, 2009

Elisabeth Hon Hunt G performed a recital of works largely from the early twentieth century fin de siècle as part of MIT’s Emerson Fellowship Recital Series on March 13, 2009. Her performance was virtuosic in both technique and musical understanding. The recital began with a piano reduction of Richard Strauss’s Grossmächtige Prinzessin...Noch glaub’ ich dem einen ganz mich gehörend (Pei-Shan Lee, piano), a thrilling dramatic aria from Ariadne auf Naxos. Although a bit tentative at first, Hunt’s performance warmed into nothing less than the acrobatic bravura music offers, gracefully careening through Strauss’s hair-raising feats with sparkling tone and devastating ease.

Debussy’s Sept poèmes de Banville was nothing short of stunning. Debussy’s impressionistic student compositions are in stark contrast to the showiness of Strauss’s opera; while Strauss’s work was demanding in its almost flamboyant technique, Debussy’s work is far more internalized and emotionally driven. Hunt’s performance, however, was striking for her energy and her pristine technique.

Friday’s recital closed with Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, Op. 129, for voice, piano, and clarinet (Daryush Mehta, SM ’05). One of Schubert’s later works, the lied is composed in three major sections, each distinct from one another, that lead the audience through longing, sorrow, and, ultimately, joy. A redeeming work, the piece was previously performed by Hunt at the memorial service of late MIT Biology professor Vernon Ingram, but it was still moving to hear during her recital; it’s unusual to hear such diversity in a single piece, and it’s much more unusual to hear it tackled with such natural ease.

It was non-trivially impressive to attend Elisabeth Hunt’s performance on Friday, not only for its musical merits (performances of this quality are usually reserved for recitals at musical conservatories), but also accounting for Ms. Hunt’s academic endeavors in pursuing a doctorate in Electrical Engineering. MIT’s Emerson Fellowships provide serious musicians an opportunity to pursue their musical interests while studying at MIT, and Friday’s recital was only a testament to the program’s success in this endeavor. A four-time recipient of this fellowship, Elisabeth Hunt is a major contributor to music at MIT, performing not only as an Emerson Fellow, but also with the MIT Chamber Chorus and MIT Chamber Music Society. The series continues with Lindy Blackburne, piano (March 20), Sarah Rumbley, piano (April 1), and Sherman Jia, violin (April 17).