Music as Refuge
September 23 – December 31

In turbulent times, music can accompany us into places of refuge, or is itself a means of escape. Music opens up imaginary worlds. This semester’s series, Music as Refuge, reflects on these themes in a series of short recitals performed by Cornell’s pianists and organists.

High points of this series are two programs by pianists Xak Bjerken and Mike Lee. Xak Bjerken will present a premiere of new Cornell Professor of Composition Elizabeth Ogonek’s Orpheus Suite, along with an interview with the composer. Mike Lee will perform a selection of Chopin’s Preludes, Op. 28, on Cornell’s Pleyel pianino, reflecting on Chopin’s isolated and alienated circumstances and their possible musical manifestation in a surviving autograph sketch during his sojourn on the island of Majorca (1838-39).

As part of the Music as Refuge series, the biweekly Midday Music for Organ programs range across a wide terrain, from early 18th-century Northern Germany to 20th-century England, from 19th-century America to the European lowlands of the 17th century, in an exploration of “The Organist’s Imaginary Worlds.”

David Yearsley will present “Fantastical Refuges” with music by G. F. Handel; Anna Steppler “Remembers Home” with British music of the 20th and 21st centuries; Annette Richards is “Suspended in Time” with music by Alain, Buxtehude, Mozart, and Arvo Pärt; and Michael Plagerman takes us to the “Fortress: Music of Strength and Comfort,” featuring List, Widor, and John Knowles Paine. The organ recitals will be recorded on a variety of instruments at Cornell and in the Ithaca area.

Full Schedule

(Subject to change)

September 23

“Fantastical Refuges”: David Yearsley plays organ works by Handel

September 30

Xak Bjerken plays Elizabeth Ogoneck‘s Orpheus Suite

October 7

“Remembering Home”: Anna Steppler plays 20th- and 21st-century British organ music

October 21

“Suspended in Time”: Annette Richards plays organ works by Buxtehude, Frescobaldi, W. A. Mozart, Krebs, and J. S. Bach

November 4

“A Mighty Fortress”: Michael Plagerman plays organ works by Reger, Widor, and John Knowles Paine

November 18

“Behind the Scenes”: A tour of the Cornell Baroque Organ with Annette Richards and Matthew Hall

November 20

Xak Bjerken plays piano works by Ulysses Kay

December 2

Annette Richards and David Yearsley play music for Advent and Christmas by J. S. Bach

December 16

Anna Steppler and Michael Plagerman play music for Advent and Christmas

date TBA

Xak Bjerken and Miri Yampolsky (Senior Lecturer and Artist-in-Residence) premiere a new CCHK-commissioned work from Jesse Jones (DMA ’13, Assistant Professor of Composition, Oberlin Conservatory). The work is a playful, off-kilter soft-shoe dance entitled Rondo a la Quirk.


Mike Cheng-Yu Lee: “Chopin in Majorca and the Pleyel pianino”