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Musical World

Mark O'Connor

  • Composer
  • Jazz
  • Violinist

Biography

Mark OConnor compositions are "informed and engaging," according to the Washington Post. An excerpt from a feature in the New York Times eloquently describes Mark O'Connor's tradition-filled past, his stellar present and his future full of promise: "The audience was on its feet. I'm certain that at least some of the concert-goers were moved not merely by Mr. O'Connor's solo, as exciting as it was, but by its having come on the heels of the orchestral piece ("American Seasons").
They were moved by Mr. O'Connor's journey without maps, cheering for the only musician today who can reach so deeply first into the refined, then the vernacular, giving his listeners a complex, sophisticated piece of early-21st-century classical music and then knocking them dead with the brown-dirt whine of a Texas fiddle." A product of America's rich aural folk tradition, Mr. O'Connor's journey began at the feet of violin masters Texas fiddler Benny Thomasson and French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. Along the way, between these two marvelous musical extremes, Mark O'Connor absorbed knowledge and influence from a multitude of musical styles and genres. Now, at age 44, he has melded and shaped these influences into a new American classical music. The Los Angeles Times warmly noted he has "crossed over so many boundaries, that his style is purely personal."
His first recording for the Sony Classical record label, Appalachia Waltz, was a collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma and doublebassist Edgar Meyer. The works Mr. O'Connor composed for the disc, including its title track, gained worldwide recognition for him as a leading proponent of a new American musical idiom. The tremendously successful follow-up release, Appalachian Journey, received a Grammy Award in February 2001. Viewing Mark O'Connor as a direct cultural descendant of America's 18th century musicians, the producers of the six-part PBS documentary on the American Revolution approached Mark O'Connor to contribute music to their long form work.
An album of the music he created, Liberty!, was released on the Sony Classical label in 1997 and features Mr. O'Connor's arrangements of a variety of traditional American music and expansive original orchestral works. Both Yo-Yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis appear as guests on the album. In 2000, composer John Williams also called on his expertise and knowledge of the period to contribute solo instrumentalist talents to the Oscar-nominated score of "The Patriot." Mr. O'Connor was invited to contribute to the soundtrack of the upcoming Ron Maxwell film, "Gods and Generals," released in 2003. Midnight on the Water, a live recording of his solo recital, was released in 1998. It was the album long awaited by legions who have followed Mr. O'Connor's 28-year career and is still today regarded by many as a definitive career work firmly solidified his place as one of America's most significant contemporary musical artists.
The CD includes Mr. O'Connor's "Caprices 1-6," increasingly gaining reputation as classic works of the modern violin repertoire. In its review of the disc, Fanfare The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors praised his ability "to dazzle listeners with things both new and personal," noting that "O'Connor's creative effort... deserves special mention and serious discussion, if not special praise."
With more than 150 performances, his "Fiddle Concerto No. 1" has become the most-performed modern violin concerto.