On Saturday night, students from prominent universities across the Northeast came together at the Intercollegiate Chamber Music Festival, which held its annual festival showcase in Rose Studio at Lincoln Center.
The Intercollegiate Chamber Music Festival is a student-organized chamber music festival that was founded at Columbia by Dean Deng CC ’19, Serina Chang CC ’19, and Cindy Liu, CC ’18. Currently in its second year, ICMF partnered with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center to host a festival showcase of student participants from several prestigious universities and organized artist workshops, panels, and performances the next day.
The festival showcase consisted of duos, trios, and quartets from Princeton, Williams, Juilliard, MIT, and Columbia. Performances from Columbia students made up half the program.
Before the first piece, the room was half empty, which organizer Cindy Liu, CC ’18, attributed to subway delays. After the first performance, however, over twenty people entered and filled most of the seats in the performance room.
Liu was in motion across the stage the entire night, moving marimbas, chairs, and music stands for the performers and making sure the event went smoothly. Even while moving performance equipment around, Liu was in the festive spirit of the music—she wore a dress covered in colorful music notes and treble clefs.
Each performance was polished and flawless, but a duet between Columbia-Juilliard violinist Sein An and Juilliard violist Isabella Bignasca was the night’s standout act. Without music stands, the duo stood at the front of the stage in long evening gowns, their bodies leaning into the music, conversing with each other as they compromised and responded to each other’s musical parts.
The two hours flew by quickly. At the end, all performers, campus ambassadors, and ICMF founders came to the stage for photographs and to thank the audience and performers.
On Sunday, the festival continued on Barnard’s campus in the Sulzberger Parlor as visiting artists performed in the Artists Showcase and spoke during the Lightning Talks and Panel. The afternoon was divided into an hour-long chamber music concert followed by a 90-minute panel discussion with a lunch hour between the two events to allow participants to engage with one another in a casual, collegial manner.
The Artists Showcase featured Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 100, performed by violinist and pedagogue Daniel Phillips and pianist Jeffrey Swann, followed by Saint-Saёns’ Violin Sonata in D minor performed by husband and wife duo violinist Kurt Nikkanen and violinist Maria Asteriadou. It was a testament to the abilities of the organizers to see artists of their calibre perform in an intimate college parlor for an audience that would not even cover the first couple of rows in other concert halls they have graced.
The two Romantic sonatas were presented with stirring musicality and taste but differed vastly in style. Phillips’ Brahms highlighted the lyricism of the piece’s late Romantic style, and the duo played with great deliberation and control, smoothly pulling the sound from their instruments as if it were taffy. Nikkanen’s Saint-Saёns, however, was played with a forceful haphazardness that cast doubt on whether or not the violin could possibly convey the passion Nikkanen felt in the piece.
The panel discussion was led by three professional musicians: Columbia professor and head of the Music Performance Program Magdalena Stern-Baczewska, Director of Face the Music Vasudevan Panicker, and composer Mary Kouyoumdjian. Following brief commentary on two key questions posed by Liu, which revolved around the relevance and accessibility of classical music, the panelists spoke of their own work. Most notably, Kouyoumdjian spoke of her documentary compositions that sought to convey a narrative of the Armenian genocide and Panicker discussed the importance of his contemporary music youth orchestra.
After the panelists concluded their comments, the participants split into two groups to discuss their own perceptions of classical music. Within one group, led by Stern-Baczewska and Kouyoumdjian, the participants discussed everything from the lack of accessibility to non-Western music to new innovations in audience diversification.
The festival stretched from Lincoln Center to Morningside Heights and included musicians from different universities and backgrounds. Above all, it was an exchange of ideas and experiences of like-minded people, linked together by their passion for music and a sincere wish to see it flourish in the future.