Pianist Orli Shaham (credit: Aleks Karjaka))

Pianist Orli Shaham among top national artists featured in revived Chamber Music Athens

Mark Gresham | 16 MAY 2022

When the Hugh Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia in Athens launched its inaugural Chamber Music Athens festival in 2019, little did they know that a worldwide pandemic would prevent a second season from taking place the following year.

Three years after its debut, Chamber Music Athens is finally back for its second season. Running from May 15 – 24, 2022, the festival brings together internationally acclaimed guest artists, UGA faculty, and students for ten days of concerts, public masterclasses, panel discussions, and intensive collaboration in rehearsals and chamber music coaching.

CMA co-director Dr. Liza Stepanova says of the new beginning, “We are tremendously excited to be restarting the festival after an involuntary two-year hiatus brought on by COVID-19.” Stepanova is also an associate professor and head of piano studies at UGA’s Hugh Hodgson School of Music.


In addition to an array of distinguished Athens and Atlanta-based artists, the festival’s concerts, which began on Sunday, bring together guest artists from across the nation: Lowell Liebermann (CMA’s first composer-in-residence), the Grammy-winning Parker String Quartet, former Juilliard Quartet violinist Joseph Lin, and acclaimed pianist Orli Shaham.

Shaham’s presence at the festival came late in the festival’s plans due to the passing of the esteemed pianist Joseph “Yossi” Kalichstein, who was initially scheduled to perform. Kalichstein died on March 31 at age 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

“Yes, Orli was engaged to replace Yossi,” says, Stepanova. “Yossi was my teacher, and it was heartbreaking when he passed. Orli is a great artist, and I believe that in this difficult situation, we could not have found a worthier replacement.”


Stepanova knew Shaham personally from her time in New York and also was taken by the personal tribute Shaham wrote about Kalichstein on social media.

“Orli is playing almost the same repertoire: everything on the May 19 concert is the same. We did replace the concerto on May 22,” Stepanova explained. “Yossi was going to play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, which was a very special piece to him. When I reached out to Orli, I asked her to play Mozart’s G major Concerto instead because I love her recording of it. We are also grateful that Orli will work with our students in a masterclass on May 21 and a handful of coachings. When I taught at Juilliard, she came to speak to my students, and I know that she is an outstanding teacher and mentor – again, obviously so, since she recently joined the Juilliard faculty!”

Shaham herself had the following to say about being called upon to substitute for the late Kalichstein

I’ve known Yossi Kalichstein my whole life, as an admirable performer onstage and affable musician offstage. Such a generous, warm, loving, quick-witted, genuine mensch, terrific musician and ideal colleague. I will miss him terribly. Thank goodness for the many recorded treasures he left us (his Ravel Trio comes to mind), and the piles of supportive and riotously funny emails I can look back on.

The one time we collaborated on 4-hand repertoire at the piano, Yossi suggested the Slavonic Dances of Dvorak. His connection to Dvorak’s language and character was deep and soulful. I learned so much from him during those rehearsals!

I am honored and humbled to perform in his place at Chamber Music Athens … though I couldn’t begin to imagine that I would be able to fill his shoes. I’m dedicating these performances at UGA to his memory. Yossi was, after all, the supreme chamber musician.

Shaham will perform in two of this year’s CMA concerts:

The program on Thursday, May 19, at the Day Chapel in the heart of the UGA State Botanical Garden, will feature duo, trio, quartet, and quintet selections. Members of the Parker String Quartet will join forces with Shaham and UGA faculty in music by Mozart and Brahms and Dvořák’s Piano Quintet. Another highlight will be the string quartet Unrequited by American jazz pianist and composer Billy Childs. Participating UGA faculty performers will include clarinetist D Ray McClellan, violist Maggie Snyder, cellist David Starkweather, and pianist Alan Woo.

The “Radiant Mozart” program on May 22 again features Shaham and the Parker String Quartet, plus HHSOM alumnus and bass player Luca Lombardi.

More information about the festival, already in progress, and a complete list of the programs and artists can be found at chambermusicathens.org

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Mark Gresham

Mark Gresham is publisher and principal writer of EarRelevant. he began writing as a music journalist over 30 years ago, but has been a composer of music much longer than that. He was the winner of an ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award for music journalism in 2003.