Mayfest chamber music festival returns to Ithaca May 19-23

Mayfest artistic directors Xak Bjerken, professor of music in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Miri Yampolsky welcome longtime friends and new collaborators for five world-class concerts May 19-23, featuring works from Mozart to Messiaen and Arensky to Weill.

Invited artists this year include five-time Grammy-winning soprano Dawn Upshaw; and violinist Roi Shiloah, who has performed as soloist with the Berlin Radio Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, among others.

Person playing a violin, passionately
Violinist Roi Shiloah

Also featured are cellist Ariel Tushinsky, a founder (along with Shiloah) of the acclaimed Jerusalem Trio; cellist Steven Doane, professor at Eastman and at the Royal Academy of Music; violinist Maria Ioudenitch, recipient of numerous first prizes including the Ysaÿe International Music Competition; violist Nikki Divall, a former member of the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the principal viola of Apollo’s Fire; violist Guy Ben-Ziony, assistant principal of the Deutsche Symphonie Orchester, Berlin; clarinetist Moran Katz, winner of the 2013 Ima Hogg Competition; and incoming Cornell faculty member baritone Jean Bernard Cerin, who has already wowed Ithaca audiences.

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Jason Paige Baritone Jean Bernard Cerin

Renowned fortepianist Malcolm Bilson, plus bassist Misha Bjerken and violinist Isabella Gorman represent the next generation of musicians.

Bjerken notes that this year has a thread of “family” running through the festival, both in the performers and in the composers, such as the Schumanns. Yampolsky adds that aside from the actual family members performing together, the other musicians are like family to each other and have connections going back years. Ben-Ziony, Tushinsky, Shiloah, and she learned chamber music together as teenagers and are looking forward to playing together in a variety of combinations. Additionally, the five days of Mayfest concerts begin and end with “heavenly” pieces; a selection from Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, which includes the song “The Heavenly Life,” starts the first program, Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night closes the festival, and in between, the May 22 performance takes place within the unique atmosphere of Sage Chapel.

Person holding a string bass instrument
Misha Bjerken

The opening night performance on Friday, May 19 at 7:30 p.m. in Barnes Hall includes Arensky’s String Quartet in A Minor, Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet, and songs by Mahler, Weill, and Blitzstein. Saturday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. in Barnes Hall features Chopin’s Cello Sonata in G Minor, Faure’s Violin Sonata in A Major, and Schumann’s Trio No. 1.

Sunday, May 21 at 3 p.m. at Moakley House at the Cornell golf course will include music from Mozart, Schumann, Berg, Mendelssohn, and more. Monday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m. is a free evening at Sage Chapel featuring Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. Finally, the festival concludes on Tuesday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Barnes Hall with Schubert’s Sonatina No. 3, Brahms’ Quartet No. 1, Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night, and songs of Rachmaninoff.

Tickets may be purchased online or at the door and are $25 for adults, $5 for students, and free for listeners below the age of 18 with an accompanying adult.

Event Parking: Cornell’s Commuter and Parking Services lift parking restrictions in the Sage South lot (corner of Campus Rd. and Sage Ave., near Barnes Hall) one hour before each Barnes Hall and Sage Chapel event (May 19, 20, 22, 23). Parking is available at the Moakley House on May 21, and drinks will be available for purchase.

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Provided Violinist Maria Ioudenitch