Mayfest to feature Chiaroscuro Quartet

As Mayfest enters its second decade, the chamber music festival aims to bring “a shock to the ears of the best kind” to Ithaca audiences, with the festival-headlining Chiaroscuro Quartet, a European ensemble making a rare US appearance. This year’s Mayfest offers a range of music, from classics by Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven to modern jazz, and will take place from May 18-22.

The festival kicks off May 18 with a free Barnes Hall concert of jazz and classical music from Ithaca-area student ensembles. On Saturday, May 19, the Chiaroscuro Quartet will be joined by Mayfest artistic co-director Xak Bjerken and Ithaca College’s Dmitri Novgorodsky playing a Stephen Hartke 4-hand piano sonata. Formed in 2005, the Chiaroscuro Quartet comprises violinists Alina Ibragimova (Russia) and Pablo Hernán Benedí (Spain), the Swedish violist Emilie Hörnlund and cellist Claire Thirion from France. This international ensemble performs music of the Classical and early Romantic periods on gut strings and with historical bows. The quartet’s unique sound – hailed by Gramophone as “A trailblazer for the authentic performance of High Classical chamber music”– is highly acclaimed by audiences and critics all over Europe.

Sunday afternoon, May 20, the festival takes a trip to Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology where fortepianist-extraordinaire Roger Moseley, associate professor of music, will augment the quartet’s program of Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Schubert. Monday night, May 21, will see Mayfest’s annual sell-out Carriage House jazz concert, this year featuring Ithaca favorites Thirteen Degrees—Nicholas Walker (bass), Greg Evans (drums), and Nick Weiser (piano).

Mayfest ends on a high note with the Chiaroscuro Quartet performing Haydn and Beethoven, festival artistic directors Miri Yampolsky and Bjerken premiering a four-hand piano work by Elizabeth Ogonek, and Yampolsky joining the quartet for Brahms’ Piano Quartet in C minor.

Yampolsky, senior lecturer of music, and Bjerken, professor of music, founded the festival, which is sponsored by Cornell’s Department of Music.

Tickets may be purchased online or at the door: Festival full passes at $90 for adults, $25 for students; or individual tickets at $25 for adults, $10 for students, free for listeners below the age of 18 with an accompanying adult. Buy tickets and find more details at

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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