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21-Year-Old Afghan Pianist Elham Fanous Shines in Hunter Symphony Concert

The Hunter Symphony performed its annual fall concert of the 2018-2019 Season on Wednesday, Dec. 5, featuring 21-year-old Afghan pianist Elham Fanous. Fanous, one of the leading Afghan pianists of his generation, is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Music Program at Hunter College on a full scholarship. Previously, he studied at the Afghan National Institute of Music, the only school in Afghanistan that supports the study of core academic subjects alongside both Eastern and Western music. Before coming to Hunter, he also studied performance and composition in Germany. Fanous has performed as a soloist at U.S. State Department-sponsored events at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Library of Congress, Carnegie Hall and other notable venues. As a composer, he has had his works performed internationally and has received coverage from TEDx and NPR. Fanous hopes to dedicate his career to ensuring that Afghan musicians are not intimidated or silenced by extremists.

Director and conductor David Fulmer, called “one of the most important conductors and musicians working with contemporary music” by the New York Classical Review, treated the audience to a diverse range of classical music from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, including pieces by Mozart, Bartok and Tchaikovsky. Recently appointed music director and conductor of the Hunter Symphony, Fulmer was a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship winner. To open the show, Mozart’s Symphony No. 32 in G Major was presented with a refreshingly original arrangement. Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances, six short pieces composed in 1915 but rooted in a much older Eastern European folk tradition, provided an interesting contrast to Mozart, bringing the show to intermission. The evening was capped off by Elham Fanous’s riveting performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Fanous’s virtuosity was on full display during the concerto, and even while the spotlight was focused on him, his mastery enhanced the orchestra without overshadowing it. As the final movement concluded, the spaces between the notes could be felt in an audience left wanting to hear more.

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