Violinist Maya Irizarry Lambright to Solo with Oberlin Orchestra

Concerto competition winner will perform Shulamit Ran's Violin Concerto in Finney Chapel

May 9, 2024

Cathy Partlow Strauss '84

violinist wearing gray suite and with short curly hair stands in front of windows
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones

With the 2023-24 academic year coming to a close, we'll hear the Oberlin Orchestra, led by conductor Raphael Jiménez in their final concert of the spring semester at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May, 10 in Finney Chapel. The program opens with Senior Concerto Competition winner Maya Irizarry Lambright in a performance of Shulamit Ran's Violin Concerto. The second half of the program features the orchestra in Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade.

Ran is an Israeli-American composer who was based at the University of Chicago for many years and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for her Philadelphia Orchestra commissioned Symphony; she was only the second woman to ever win win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. She wrote the Violin Concerto in 2003. It was last performed in Oberlin in 2017.  

Written in 1888, Scheherazade was composed for a ballet based on One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern folktales compiled in the Arabic language during the Islamic Golden Age. The much-played symphonic suite features gorgeous melodies distinguished by Rimsky-Korsakov's masterful orchestration and expansive violin solos that will be performed by Benjamin Seah, concertmaster of the orchestra for this performance.

Meet the soloist

Violinist Maya Irizarry Lambright, from West Hartford, Connecticut, studies violin performance at Oberlin Conservatory with Sibbi Bernhardsson. Irizarry Lambright's musical journey is deeply rooted in a childhood surrounded by diverse musical influences, shaping a performance style that transcends genres. Their passion for improvisation, contemporary music, and small ensemble work fuels their artistic expression. As a member of the Eris Quartet, Irizarry Lambright has performed more than 50 concerts, including a 2023 tour to nine cities up the East Coast. Eris is dedicated to curating programs of traditional and contemporary repertoire and will be the Fellowship String Quartet in Residence at 2024 New Music On the Point (NMOP) in Vermont. In January 2022, Irizarry Lambright spearheaded "Why We Breathe," a project created as a result of the pandemic’s effects on collaborative music projects, uniting musicians and visual artists to create a fusion of art and music. At Oberlin College and Conservatory, Irizarry Lambright leads a traditional Latin music band. Next academic year, they will attend the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, under the tutelage of Lina Bahn. With an unwavering dedication to pushing musical boundaries, they eagerly embrace the exploration of both notated and improvised music.


What moved you to select the Shulamit Ran Concerto?

Last spring my quartet, the Eris Quartet, took Shulamit Ran’s string quartet Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory on tour. It is a beautiful piece that we really fell in love with. The different sound worlds and surprising compositional decisions that she made excited us as a group that enjoys playing less traditional repertoire. Additionally, it is an emotionally charged piece that we felt important to share with a large audience. When I was deciding which concerto to prepare for the competition, I knew I wanted to choose a 21st-century concerto. I am passionate about new music, and since it has been less common for violinists to prepare 21st-century concertos for competitions, I was very excited to present a less well-known piece. The violist of the Eris Quartet, Felix, recommended I listen to Shulamit Ran’s Violin Concerto, and told me that Oberlin Conservatory music theory professor Christa Cole '17 had won the 2017 Oberlin concerto competition with this piece and teaches the third movement in her theory class as an example of an octatonic scale. 

What has the piece taught you about your playing and how to reach an audience?

Working on a piece with only one public recording gave me the freedom to create a more original interpretation unaffected by preconceptions of how the piece “should" be played. I was given the space to take more ownership of how I personally wanted the piece to be received by the audience. In addition, because it is a 21st-century concerto, I have to be very convincing in my interpretation of it and prepare it to be enjoyable to the unfamiliar ear. I have become more confident in my creative decisions while working on this piece and have grown to appreciate myself as a solo player more than ever.

When you think back on your time at Oberlin, what stands out about the experience of going to school here?

Oberlin is the type of school where exploration and experimentation are encouraged. I have had the opportunity to be proactive in my education and guide it in a way that works towards my personal goals, no matter how unique they are. The faculty at Oberlin is talented, encouraging, and supportive. Additionally, they have created an environment where the students always encourage and support each other. We are always collaborating on student-led projects, which is very unique to the environment at Oberlin. 

You may also like…

Peter Takács—A Half-Century Celebrated

May 4, 2024

This spring marks the official conclusion of Takács’ tenure, after an incredible 48 years of teaching. Many of his former students from around the world are set to convene for a celebratory concert in Warner Concert Hall on May 12
man seated in front of grand piano

Pianist Jiongli Wang to Perform with Oberlin Chamber Orchestra

May 2, 2024

On Friday, May 3, the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra performs a program that will showcase Concerto Competition winner Jiongli Wang in Frédéric Chopin’s First Piano Concerto, as well as fourth-year composition student Cashel Day-Lewis in the premiere of his Black River Prelude commissioned by Oberlin Conservatory in honor of the Lorain County Bicentennial.
portrait of pianist Jiongli Wang standing in front of a grand piano