Hometown: New York, New York
Web site: http://www.markoconnor.com
View World Music Days Events for this Artist
Violinist and composer Mark O'Connor is widely recognized as one of the most gifted contemporary composers in America and surely one of the brightest talents of his generation.
The New York Times calls his "one of the most spectacular journeys in recent American music."
The Baltimore Sun and the St. Louis Post Dispatch label him "genius."
The Los Angeles Times describes him as an artist who is "one of the most talented and imaginative...working in music -- any music -- today."
The Seattle Times says of his music: "brilliantly original."
His 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 as well as being a Classical and Flamenco music student in his formative years, Mr. O'Connor's creative journey began at the feet of the folk fiddler and innovator who created the modern era of American fiddling in the 1940's, Benny Thomasson, and a French jazz violinist who was considered one of the greatest improvisers in the history of the violin, Stephane Grappelli. Along the way, between these marvelous musical extremes, Mark O'Connor absorbed knowledge and influence from the multitude of musical styles and genres he studied. Now, at age 47, he has melded and shaped these influences into a new American Classical music, and is perpetuating his vision of an American School of string playing. 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 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.
The producers of the six-part PBS documentary on the American Revolution, Liberty! approached Mark O'Connor to contribute music to their film. An album of the music he created also called 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 original string orchestral works. Both Yo-Yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis appear as guests on the album. In 2000, composer John Williams also called on Mr. O'Connor's solo instrumentalist talents to the Oscar-nominated score of The Patriot.
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 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 200 performances, his first full length orchestral score "Fiddle Concerto" has become the most-performed modern violin concerto today.
Fanfare for the Volunteer, recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Steven Mercurio, was released by Sony Classical in October 1999. At its release, Melinda Bargreen, the Seattle Times' respected classical music critic, described his 2nd long form orchestral composition as, "O'Connor's strongest work thus far," calling it "distinctively American and decidedly O'Connor..."
In April 2000, Mr. O'Connor premiered his 4th violin concerto "The American Seasons: Seasons of an American Life," at Troy Music Hall in Troy, N.Y. The work was commissioned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the hall's concert series. The New York Times said "... if Dvorak had spent his American leisure time in Nashville instead of Spillville, Iowa, 'New World Symphony' would have sounded like this." The American Seasons was recorded with the Metamorphosen chamber orchestra and released in 2001.
Following the work's release, a 30-city national tour with Metamorphosen earned universally spectacular reviews. The New York Times said, "... if Dvorak had spent his American leisure time in Nashville instead of Spillville, Iowa, 'New World Symphony' might have sounded like this." Richard Dyer of the Boston Globe called the work "concise, lyrical and irresistibly rhythmic." Wayne Gay of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said, "The American Seasons is destined to rank among the greatest masterpieces of American music...the first musical masterpiece of the 21st century." The work was nationally broadcast New Year's Day 2002 on PBS stations, paired with Vivaldi's "Four Seasons."
In August 2000, Mr. O'Connor's 3rd concerto, "Double Violin Concerto," received its premiere with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the 2nd violin soloist and the Chicago Symphony, Christoph Eschenbach conducting. (In November 2003, Mr. O'Connor and Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg recorded the work with Marin Alsop conducting the Colorado Orchestra. It will be released in August, 2008.)
In June 2001, Mr. O'Connor released Hot Swing! a tribute to his great friend and mentor, the legendary French jazz master, Stephane Grappelli. Released on his own OMAC label, the CD was recorded live with Frank Vignola on guitar and Jon Burr on bass. The Chicago Tribune called it "one of the finest discs of his career and one of the greatest jazz violin albums ever." A forthcoming Hot Swing CD entitled Live In New York is scheduled to be released soon.
In 2003, Mr. O'Connor completed his 5th concerto, "Double Concerto for violin and cello" (For the Heroes) and often performs the piece with cellist Maya Beiser and Symphony Orchestra. It is his most heroic music paying tribute to the people who helped heal a nation in the weeks and months after 9/11. Also in 2003, Mr. O'Connor was commissioned by the Academy of St. Martin the Fields to compose a concerto for violin and chamber orchestra. Violin Concerto No. 6 "Old Brass" takes its inspiration from a Beaufort, South Carolina plantation designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
In 2002, Mr. O'Connor formed a new chamber ensemble, the Appalachia Waltz Trio. The trio performs repertoire Mr. O'Connor created for his Appalachia Waltz and Appalachian Journey recording projects. The Appalachia Waltz Trio released its album, Crossing Bridges, in 2004 on Mr. O'Connor's OMAC recording label. Mr. O'Connor has also formed a piano trio to perform his “Poets and Prophets” composition inspired by the music of Johnny Cash. He often performs it in a collaborative concert concept with Mr. Cash's daughter, Rosanne Cash. Mr. O'Connor has recently formed other ensembles including a String Quartet concert entitled "Evening of Strings" with chamber music legends Ida Kavafian, Paul Neubauer and Matt Haimovitz, performing O'Connor's music exclusively. Another ensemble as been formed from young players from Mr. O'Connor's string camps, The American String Celebration. In 2008 Mr. O'Connor brought back to the stage his solo recital, a one-man unaccompanied violin concert which features his six caprices and three improvisations as the centerpieces of the tour de force performance.
As word of his considerable compositional talents have spread, Mark O'Connor's musical works are being embraced by a variety of performers apart from his own concert performances. Yo-Yo Ma has recorded the solo cello version of "Appalachia Waltz" and frequently performs it in recital. Renee Fleming has performed and recorded Mr. O'Connor's vocal song arrangements he composed for her. The Eroica Trio performs his “Poets and Prophets Piano Trio No. 1” regularly, a piece they commissioned from him in 2003. Sharon Isbin has recorded his duet for violin and guitar, several top classical violinists are performing his "Caprices" in recital, his flute concerto "The Fallen" has been performed by a number of flutists and is slated for recording, Dance troupes, including Twyla Tharp Dance Co., the New York City Ballet, Alvin Ailey and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, are staging and choreographing to Mr. O'Connor's expressive American music.
The recipient of numerous commissioning grants, including "Meet the Composer," Mr. O'Connor received a commission from the McKim Fund of Library of Congress for a new violin sonata which he premiered in that year at the Library. Mr. O'Connor received a commission from fifteen symphony orchestras in 2007 to compose his Americana Symphony slated to be recorded by Baltimore Symphony in 2008. He was commissioned by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and the La Jolla Chamber Music Festival for his “String Quartet No. 2” (Bluegrass) in 2005, and was subsequently commissioned by the Hudson Qudricentennial Project in New York for his “String Quartet No. 3” (Old-Time) in 2008, both quartets scheduled for recordings in 2009. His 40-minute a cappella "Folk Mass" received its world premiere in February in New York City, performed by Gloriae Dei Cantores, the choral ensemble that commissioned the piece. The Folk Mass recording is slated to be released in late 2008. Mr. O'Connor is currently commissioned for a "triple" concerto for the Sony/BMG artists, Ahn Trio to be premiered in 2009.
Mark O'Connor has appeared in concert at The White House, the Presidential Inauguration Celebration and the ceremonies of Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Games for which he composed "Olympic Reel." He is often featured on major network television shows, and past appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," "Great Performances" on PBS, and the "Kennedy Center Honors."
Mr. O'Connor regularly gives two-day residencies, giving lecture/demonstrations or teaches workshops at many schools of music including The Juilliard School of Music, Harvard, Rice University, SUNY Fredonia, University Of Texas, Curtis, Berklee College of Music, Eastman School of Music, Tanglewood, and Aspen Summer Festival... Mr. O'Connor will be the Artist in Residence at UCLA for the 2008-2009 season. Mr. O'Connor generously donates his time in support of a number of organizations that promote music education and outreach, including Opus 118, Midori and Friends and Sphinx. He serves on the advisory panel for the selection of the Kennedy Center Honors. He is the founder and president of the internationally recognized Mark O'Connor Fiddle Camp and Strings Conference as well as the new Mark O'Connor String Camp to be held in New York City in 2009. Mr. O'Connor is the Festival Director for the Seattle Symphony Summerfest at Benaroya Hall for three weeks in the summer with an all star line up of international renowned artists.
Mr. O'Connor resides in New York City.