Cornell’s collection of historical keyboard instruments ranging from the 18th century to the present day, and including original instruments and modern copies, draws musicians and scholars from around the world for recitals, teaching, and study. Each semester’s series of events explores keyboard culture in all its variety taking the instruments themselves as a central focus, from the 1799 London piano by John Broadwood to the Aeolian-Skinner organ (Boston, 1940), from the 1824 Viennese piano by Conrad Graf to the 2017 copy of a late 18th-century Friederici clavichord by Dietrich Hein; from the Blüthner Aliquot Grand made in Leipzig in 1878 to the analog Moog synthesizer of the 1960s. Events this Spring 2024 semester include full-length recitals on organs and pianos, midweek musical breaks at the campus organs, and intimate music-making in the domestic and social setting of Friday evening Salons at the A. D. White House.

Highlights include residencies by three world-class pianists Alexander Melnikov (February 17-22), Ashley Wass (March 25-29), and Boris Berman (April 15-16), each of whom will give recitals and masterclasses; a day and evening of organ improvisation with distinguished experts Edoardo Bellotti, Ivan Bosnar and William Porter (April 26); music and conversation on C. P. E. Bach and portraiture (February 3), Liszt and virtuosity (March 1), and the myth of Bilitis (May 10) at the Friday evening Salon; a fossil-free evening of organ music for Earth Day (April 22); and the usual midweek recitals of Midday Music for Organ. At the end of the semester, we turn to the art of improvisation at the organ for a mini-festival dedicated to ‘Improvisation at Work.’

You’ll find the full schedule of the semester’s events, free and open to all, below. Please join us!

Distinguished Visiting Artists:

February 17-22 Alexander Melnikov

March 25-29 Ashley Wass

April 15-16 Boris Berman

The Salon Project

Audience at the salon

Co-sponsored by the Society for the Humanities, The Salon Project brings together music, instruments, research, and conversation in a compact, hour-length format at the historic A. D. White House on select Fridays at 5pm.

February 2: C. P. E. Bach’s Musical Portraits

Neil Saccamano (Associate Professor Emeritus of English) joins Annette Richards (Professor of Music and University Organist) for a conversation about her recent book The Temple of Fame and Friendship: Portraits, Music, and History in the C. P. E. Bach Circle (Chicago, 2022), with performances on piano and clavichord by Xak Bjerken, Roger Moseley, and David Yearsley. The discussion will encompass Bach’s extensive collection of portraits, his attempts to capture the likenesses of friends and colleagues in music, and eighteenth-century configurations of character, physiognomy, sensibility, and memory.

March 1: Extreme Pianism: The Discipline, Methods, and Gimmicks of Nineteenth-Century Virtuosity

PhD candidate Theodora Serbanescu-Martin presents her research on the physical, psychological, and pedagogical means through which virtuosity at the keyboard was inculcated during the nineteenth century. Pianistic technique could be drilled by teachers, programmed by exercises and methods, and honed by devices such as Henri Herz’s dactylion (1836), a replica of which will be discussed and demonstrated alongside music by Schubert (the “Wanderer” Fantasy), Liszt (“Réminiscences de Don Juan”), and J. S. Bach/Brahms.

May 10: Bilitis: Myths, Songs, Reverberations

In 1894, Pierre Louÿs published a collection of lesbian poetry that he claimed to have translated from Ancient Greek. Although Louÿs’s fabulation was soon uncovered, his sensual poems have enjoyed a long afterlife. Claude Debussy, Rita Strohl, and Charles Koechlin were among those who set them to music, while they achieved cult status among the lesbian underground: in 1955, the Daughters of Bilitis was founded in San Francisco as the first lesbian civil and political rights organization in the United States. Curated by Cat Lambert (Assistant Professor of Classics), who will be joined by special guest performers, this program includes art and cabaret songs inspired by Bilitis and her legacy.

Full-length Recitals

Pianist on stage

February 18, 7pm (Barnes Hall). Alexander Melnikov. Piano. “Clementi, Haydn, and Mozart”

International star pianist and CCHK Artist-in-Residence Alexander Melnikov brings his extraordinary expertise on both modern and historic pianos to Cornell for a week-long residency. This first recital of two, performed on a copy of a late 18th-century Viennese fortepiano, focusses on the brilliant London pianist Muzio Clementi and his contemporaries Haydn and Mozart, interleaving sonatas by the two older composers with his own musical homages to them, and concluding with Clementi’s stunning Sonata Op. 34 no. 2. 

February 20, 7pm (Barnes Hall). Alexander Melnikov. Piano. “Fantasy, from Bach to Schnittke”

On a variety of historic pianos from the Cornell collection, Artist-in-Residence Alexander Melnikov explores some of the greatest fantasies in the piano repertoire, including the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue of J. S. Bach, C. P. E. Bach’s tragic F-sharp minor Fantasy, Schubert’s ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy, music by Mendlessohn and Scriabin, and ending with Alfred Schnittke’s ‘Improvisation and Fugue.’

March 3, 8pm (Anabel Taylor). Annette Richards. Organ. “18th- and 20th-Century Baroque.” Includes music by J. S. Bach, C. P. E. Bach, Andriessen, Pärt. 

In a recital that explores the many colors of the Cornell Baroque Organ, an instrument that was completed in Ithaca in 2011 and that reimagines a glorious German organ of 1706, Annette Richards invites listeners into the sound world of the early 18th century with works by C. P. E. Bach, J. S. Bach, and G. A. Homiilius, heard through music composed in the 20th-century music for the ‘baroque’ organ. The concert begins with Arvo Pärt’s ‘Pari intervalli’ and concludes with  Hendrik Andriessen’s ‘Thema met Variaties’, for Lady Susi Jeans.

March 29, 7pm (Barnes Hall). Ashley Wass. Piano.

April 16, 7:30pm (Barnes Hall). Boris Berman. Piano. “The Dawn of Modernism.” Internationally sought-after teacher and performer Boris Berman opens our ears to the radical sounds of the extraordinary early 20th-century piano repertoire, including Prokofiev’s “Fugitive Visions,” Scriabin’s “Five Preludes,” Op. 74, Debussy’s “Six Antique Epigraphs” and “Estampes”, and Schoenberg’s Op. 19 and Op. 23. Head of the Piano Department at the Yale School of Music, Berman has recorded all the solo piano works of Prokofiev and Schnittke, complete sonatas of Scriabin, and much more; his most recent release is a double CD retrospective of piano works by Silvestrov. 

April 22, 8pm (Anabel Taylor). “Cornell Organists Unplugged.” Organ. Celebrating international Earth Day electricity-free with Buxtehude, Bach and more 

On Earth Day 2024 Cornell organists Annette Richards, David Yearsley, and students join millions of people around the planet to raise awareness about our environment, with a recital of varied musical offerings performed without electricity, harnessing the power of foot and finger to create sublime music at the King of Instruments. The program includes Baroque favorites for a festive and atmospheric musical evening.

April 26, 8pm (Anabel Taylor Chapel, St. Luke Lutheran Church, and Sage Chapel). Workshop/Symposium "Improvisation at Work”. Organ. Guest organists Edoardo Bellotti, Ivan Bosnar, and William Porter. A collaboration between Cornell, Syracuse University and Eastman School of Music. 



Midday Music for Organ

Audience listening to an organ concert

Midday Music for Organ offers informal 40-minute programs on alternate Wednesdays at 12:30pm, giving busy Cornellians and guests musical respite at the center of the week. Events take place across campus.

February 7 (Anabel Taylor Chapel). Annette Richards. “German Orpheus.” Music by C. P. E. Bach 

Celebrated by his North German contemporaries as an Original Genius and the ‘German Orpheus,’ C. P. E. Bach left a vast oeuvre of music in all genres except opera. His organ works form a small but coherent group, most of them composed for the Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia and her specially-commissioned organ. University Organist Annette Richards explores this striking and imaginative repertoire on the Anabel Taylor organ, an instrument based on the Charlottenburg Castle organ that Anna Amalia would have heard, and perhaps played, in her youth.

February 28 (Anabel Taylor). Annette Richards. “C. P. E. Bach among the Organists.” J. S. Bach, C. P. E. Bach, Krebs, Homilius, and Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia 

Like his brothers, C. P. E. Bach learned from his father to be a virtuoso organist. His career took him in other directions, however, and towards the end of his life he had, he claimed, ‘lost the use of his feet’ at the instrument. But there were many other musicians in his generation, most of them students of his father’s, who continued the traditions of the Bach family at the organ. This program places C. P. E. Bach in dialogue with his father and his fellow students, creating a picture of the now relatively little-known sonic landscape of the mid 18th-century German organ.

March 20 (Anabel Taylor). David Yearsley. “Big Bach.” Major works on Bach’s birthday 

J. S. Bach was born on March 20th, 1685. To celebrate his birthday, David Yearsley plays three of his remarkable, large-scale works for the organ: the Fantasy and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542, the Trio Sonata no. 6 in G major, BWV 530, and the Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548.

April 17 (Sage Chapel). Adam Langeveld. “Britain in the 19th and 20th Centuries.” Includes music by Stanford, Howells, Thalben-Ball, Bridge, Fletcher 

The Anglo-Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford died 100 years ago this March. Trained in England and Germany, his contribution to British music as a composer and teacher in the last decades of the 19th century and early decades of the 20th, was far-reaching. This program, performed by post-doctoral student Adam Langeveld on the Aeolian-Skinner organ, presents Stanford’s music for organ alongside that of his brilliant pupils, Herbert Howells (Psalm Prelude, Set 1 No. 2), Percy Whitlock (Allegretto from 5 Short Pieces), George Thalben-Ball (Elegy), Craig Sellar Lang (Tuba Tune), Frank Bridge (Adagio in E Major), and concludes with the rousing Festival Toccata of Stanford’s contemporary Percy Fletcher.

May 1 (Sage Chapel). Annette Richards. “Paris and Beyond.” Franck, Alain, Messiaen

The haunting works of 20th-century French composers Jehan Alain and Olivier Messiaen constitute some of the most beautiful and memorable music for the organ. Both composers learned their art in the organ and composition classes at the Paris Conservatoire, where César Franck (‘Père Franck’) was still revered as a model and inspiration. To mark the end of the 2023-24 Cornell year, Annette Richards performs works both poignant and powerful by all three, including Franck’s Chorale no. 2 in B minor, Messiaen’s ‘L’Apparition de l’Église Eternelle,’ and Alain’s ‘Trois Pièces.’