Nicholas Walker

The classical music scene this fall is bright with a varied array of modern music, and an inspiring number of collaborations in performance between our two leading academic institutions. Moreover, this season marks several anniversaries. Both the Ithaca Community Chorus and the Cayuga Vocal Ensemble are celebrating 40 years of performances. 

The Cayuga Chamber Orchestra (CCO) will be led by the four final candidates for the position of new music director—the chosen conductor will take on that ensemble’s 40th season starting next fall. And both Cornell University and Ithaca College have scheduled special programs to commemorate the death of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin 100 years ago (see “Special Events” below). Here are highlights, and be sure to check dates and venues closer to concert times, as schedules do change.

Orchestral and Ensemble Presentations

The CCO starts off the orchestra season in Ford Hall on Sept. 19 with conductor candidate Mariusz Smolij, who opens the program (as will the other three candidates) with a favorite piece of his choosing, followed by Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony and Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto with Cornell pianist Xak Bjerken as soloist. 

On Nov. 21, candidate #2, Brandon Keith Brown, will conduct Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, K. 622, with CCO’s principal Michael Galván as soloist, and Symphony No. 39. 

The IC Symphony Orchestra’s first concert, on Oct. 2, with conductor Jeffery Meyer, presents Mathew Blum’s Sharpshooter (2013), Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer” sung by IC bass Marc Webster, and Tchaikovsky’s fifth symphony. On Nov. 15 the orchestra, with Meyer conducting, performs Pulitzer prize-winner Steven Stucky’s Radical Light (2007) and the Brahms Symphony No. 2. Stucky, formerly on the Cornell faculty and this year’s Visiting Husa Professor of Composition at IC, will give a preconcert talk.  

The Cornell Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, conducted by Chris Younghoon Kim, present a concert in Bailey Hall on Oct. 3, featuring Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, Beethoven’s Leonore Overture no. 3, and works by Eli Marshall and Kenneth Froelich. The Chamber Orchestra’s second concert, on Nov. 14 in Barnes Hall, features violinists Ariana Kim from Cornell and IC’s Susan Waterbury performing Corelli’s Concerto grosso, op. 6, no. 4, plus music by Schubert and Jorge Villavicencio Grossmann. The Cornell Symphony Orchestra under Kim will play Samuel Barber’s Essay for Orchestra and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade on Nov. 21 in Bailey Hall.

Going back to Ford Hall, on Oct. 6 Meyer leads the IC Chamber Orchestra in a concert that introduces two new faculty members—violinist Calvin Wiersma and violist David Quiggle (who performed in Mayfest this year)—playing Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante (K. 364), and includes Stravinsky’s chamber concerto Dumbarton Oaks. The orchestra’s second major concert under Meyer on Dec. 5 features popular performers Gilbert Kalish and Cornell’s Miri Yampolsky in Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos (K. 365), plus Beethoven’s Leonore Overture no. 3, and Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony.  

For a major example of collegiate collaboration, on Oct. 30 Ensemble X, directed by Bjerken, presents ICU Sound Works in an inaugural concert performed by both Cornell and IC faculty and students, plus their faculty conductors. On the program will be Stravinsky’s Octet for winds, Decet by Cornell grad student Can Bilir, and Vaporized Tivoli by Anders Hillborg, conducted by Kim, while Meyer leads Nazareno by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov, arranged for two pianos and orchestra, with pianists Karl Paulnack, who also is an IC dean, and Bjerken, who says there will be “tons of percussion.” The Ithaca Community Orchestra, made up of about 40 musicians under music director James Mick and assistant conductor Travis Carpenter, gives a concert at the Hangar Theatre on Dec. 5, featuring works by Bizet, Saint-Saëns, and Rimsky-Korsakov.


Chamber Music and Recitals

The Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble has a rich schedule this fall. Their first concert, at the Lodi Historical Society, is all Brahms on Sept. 20, with four guest artists including mezzo Ivy Walz, while the second at Ithaca’s Unitarian Church on Jan. 10 is all Schumann and features old friends to Ithaca—former IC violinist Nicholas DiEugenio, and baritone Timothy LeFebvre who sings the beautiful Dichterliebe song cycle. The three home Salons, at 103 First Street, feature all Brahms (mainly piano music) on Oct. 18, music by Vieuxtemps and Liszt on Nov. 15, and works by Clarke and Griffes on Dec. 20. 

Our special early music group, New York State Baroque, offers three fall chamber concerts in the Unitarian Church. The opening program on Sept. 25, “French Café,” presents troubadour melodies, dance tunes, and courtly love songs from medieval and Renaissance France and features countertenor José Lemos. Concert II, “Harmony of the Spheres” on Nov. 6, will have popular soprano Laura Heimes singing about the arts of music and astronomy, accompanied by viol and two lutes. On Dec. 4 (an unusual Friday evening concert) eminent fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout performs quintets of Mozart and Beethoven with the Cambini Winds period instruments group. 

The Shirley and Chas Hockett Chamber Music Concert Series presents the famed Emerson String Quartet in Ford Hall on Sept. 29, playing music of Beethoven, Bartok, and Brahms. 

The CCO’s chamber series in the Unitarian Church has scheduled a modern piece for each concert in honor of Percy Browning, the first being by Piazzolla, which, along with music of Ibert and Schumann, will be performed on Oct. 18. The second concert on Nov. 8 presents Bartók and Smetana, along with the new Sonata No. 1 for violin and piano by award-winning composer Robert Paterson, a commission by Browning and CCO violinist Kirsten Marshall, who will play the work. 

The Cornell Concert Series presents British cellist and author Steven Isserlis and renowned fortepianist Robert Levin in Barnes Hall on Oct. 27, performing Beethoven sonatas and variation sets for cello and keyboard. 

The Louis K. Thaler Concert Violinist Series offers music of Busoni and Prokofiev played by violinist Mark Steinberg with pianist Marija Stroke, at Ford Hall on Oct. 29. Also on that date, Cornell’s Yampolsky will perform with brothers Abel and Arnau Tomàs, violinist and cellist with the Casals Quartet (the stars of the first Mayfest), and IC violist Quiggle in music by Bach, Brahms, and Schumann. 

On Nov. 6 the Cornell Concert Series brings famed pianist Emanuel Ax to Bailey Hall in music by C. P. E. Bach, Dussek, and Beethoven, the “Pathétique” and “Appassionata” sonatas. Pianist Bjerken plays a solo recital at Barnes on Nov. 8, which includes music of Haydn, Debussy, Scriabin, Kurtág, and the East Coast premiere of Stucky’s piano sonata. He returns to Barnes on Nov. 15 with cellist Steven Doane from Eastman in works by Beethoven, Janácek, Martinu, and Bach. On Nov. 23 Cornell DMA and second-place winner in the 2011 Westfield Fortepiano Competition Mike Cheng-Yu Lee will play Beethoven, Schubert, and Schumann on the Regier-Graf fortepiano in Barnes. Also in Barnes, on December 2, a program of early piano trios, including 

Haydn’s in C major, will be performed by Cornell cellist John Haines-Eitzen, fortepianist Roger Moseley, and guest violinist Paul Miller.

Choral and Vocal Presentations

The Cornell Glee Club, directed by Robert Isaacs, presents the annual Bailey Hall homecoming concert on Sept. 19, featuring the premiere of Jens Klimek’s Outstare the Stars along with a selection of songs, motets, spirituals, plus a reunion performance by singers from the 1966 Glee Club tour to East Asia, conducted again by Thomas A. Sokol. 

On Oct. 8 in Bailey Hall the Grammy-winning octet from New York, Roomful of Teeth, offers a program that merges traditional classical singing with diverse vocal techniques from all over the world. 

The four IC choruses, led by Janet Galván and Derrick Fox, present Choral Collage on Oct. 10 in Ford Hall, with special programs of music ranging from Renaissance to contemporary, including one devoted to Brahms. 

The Cayuga Vocal Ensemble, led by Carl Johengen, gives a concert on Oct. 25 called “Musicians’ Choice,” a diverse program of favorite choral music from the group’s long performance history. On Dec. 6 they will sing some of the music featured on their first performance as the A Cappella Chamber Choir, 40 years ago. Both concerts are in the First Presbyterian Church. 

The Cornell Chorus, conducted by Isaacs, will give a Twilight Concert on Oct. 31 in Bailey Hall. 

On Nov. 21 in Barnes is the concert of the Cornell Chamber Singers under Isaacs and assistant choral director Stephen Spinelli, who will direct the Cornell Chorale in their concert in Sage Chapel on Dec. 4. 

The IC choruses present their Winter Choral Concert at Ford Hall on Dec. 6, featuring music by Dan Elder and Dominick DiOrio. 

The Ithaca Community Chorus, celebrating its 40th season, performs Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil (the Vespers) under the direction of Gerald Wolfe on Jan. 16 in St. Paul’s Methodist Church, a work that the chorus performed in Russia in 1994. The Chamber Singers will present the Stabat Mater by Russian-British composer Alissa Firsova.

Special Events

To commemorate the Scriabin 100th anniversary, IC piano students will perform the Russian composer’s music in two programs in the Hockett Recital Hall on Sept. 11 and 25. Cornell’s Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies sponsors three concerts in Barnes Hall for the Scriabin centenary. The complete piano sonatas will be played on two parts, on Oct. 22 and 24, by Bjerken, Yampolsky, and three grad students—Becky Lu, Ryan McCullough, and Andrew Zhou—along with IC pianist Dmitri Novgorodsky. On Oct. 25, guest pianist Stanislav Ioudenitch, Gold Medalist at the 2001 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, will play music more Scriabin, plus Chopin and Rachmaninoff. 

The Atkinson Forum in American Studies for 2015 presents “Son Jarocho and the Mexican-American Imagination” on Oct. 16 and 17 in Lincoln B20 and Sage Chapel at Cornell. The programs include music for baroque guitar played by the Tembembe Ensamble Continuo, a workshop with the ensemble, an academic session and roundtable on Son Jarocho—a style combining Spanish and Mexican elements—and a “Fandango!” jam session. All these special events are free and open to the public. 

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