Under the artistic direction of pianists Miri Yampolsky, senior lecturer of music, and Xak Bjerken, professor of music, Cornell University’s Department of Music presents Mayfest, its annual springtime festival of world-class chamber music, from May 17–21. Mayfest will feature numerous guest artists from the world’s finest orchestras, and will also highlight the exceptional talent of Ithaca-based musicians.
Invited artists this year include violist Beatrice Muthelet, the principal of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra; oboist Dudu Carmel, the principal of the Israel Philharmonic; and French horn player Chezy Nir, the former principal of the Israel Symphony Orchestra. Returning artists include cellist Zvi Plesser, who has performed with the National Symphony Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic; violinist Xiao-Dong Wang of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; and violinist Christian Bouey, known to Ithaca audiences as the Concertmaster of the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra.
Mayfest concerts offer a range of music over the five days, from favorite masterworks to lesser-known works, that will allow the variety of instruments to each have a chance to shine. Bjerken notes that "We are combining audience favorites, both of the intimate and barn-burning types, with some real gems that are rarely heard- like a sextet by Beethoven for two horns, and a gorgeous sextet by Zemlinsky for strings with singer. Also, for the first time, we are featuring an oboist, principal of the Israel Phiharmonic, so this allows us new possibilities. The concerts are special because the audience can see up close the way people communicate and adjust in the moment; it's a constant conversation that reflects the drama and sensitivity of the music, at times vulnerable and at others, bold."
The opening night performance on Friday, May 17 includes Beethoven’s Trio in B-flat Major for oboe, cello, and piano, Op. 11, as well as Prokofiev’s Scenes from Romeo and Juliet. Saturday, May 18 at 8 pm at Barnes Hall features two Brahms works highlighting the viola and horn, plus Schumann’s Romances. Sunday, May 19 is the annual concert at the Lab of Ornithology at 4 pm and will include Music of Nature: Zemlinksy’s Lilies-of-the-valley blossomed everywhere for soprano and strings, and works by Beethoven and Britten. Monday, May 20 is an intimate evening at the Carriage House Loft at 8 pm and will present selections from Richard Strauss and Glinka, as well as jazz from the IHS quartet. Finally, the festival concludes on Tuesday, May 21 at 8 pm at Barnes Hall with Marcello’s Oboe Concerto and a pair of blockbuster piano quintets from Elgar and Brahms.
Tickets may be purchased online or at the door: Complete festival passes are available, or individual tickets are $25 for adults, $5 for students, and free for listeners below the age of 18 with an accompanying adult. Buy tickets online.