Review | Sun-Ly Pierce and Chien-Lin Lu Duo Recital

Marilyn Horne Song Contest Recital Features World Premiere

Sun-Ly Pierce and Chien-Lin Lu | Credit: Phil Channing

With an extraordinary six seasons of participation as Music Academy fellows between them, Chien-Lin Lu (’14, ’15, ’19) piano, and Sun-Ly Pierce (’19, ’20, ’21) mezzo-soprano could not be more qualified to represent the creative direction of the program in recent years. This recital they played in recognition of their win in the 2021 Marilyn Horne Song Competition was carefully planned and thoroughly inspiring. The songs they chose covered an expansive range of styles and showed the artists at their best. 

The first half of the program included works by Claude Debussy, Hugo Wolf, and Wonju Lee and culminated in the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s five-song sequence Wise Moon. The Music Academy commissioned these songs for this event and Higdon composed them with these performers in mind. The composer was present and spoke briefly about her creative process, citing a night in Philadelphia when the full moon struck her with its beauty, persistence, and ubiquitousness in the heavens. The recital happened to fall on another night when the moon was exceptionally bright, and the five songs thus resonated powerfully with the audience and in the moment. 

Although there was no intermission, the program made a distinct turn in the second half, becoming more cabaret-like — at least to the extent that a set including works by Arnold Schoenberg and Benjamin Britten can be considered light entertainment. Sun-Ly Pierce, whose voice was commanding throughout, produced fireworks in the final choruses of Britten’s Funeral Blues and vamped it up in William Bolcom’s clever Amor. The encore, I Wish It So by Marc Blitzstein, left listeners wanting to hear more from this wonderfully talented pair of musicians.

This edition of ON Culture was originally emailed to subscribers on November 7, 2023. To receive Leslie Dinaberg’s arts newsletter in your inbox on Fridays, sign up at


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