The American Seasons
Label: SONY CLASSICAL
This disc is designed for use in super audio CD players only.
Mark O'Connor is a phenomenon as a composer and as a player. Successfully straddling, combining, and transcending a multitude of styles, he defies categorization and comparison. A grass-roots fiddler whose virtuosity any classical violinist might envy, he can achieve hair-raising speeds, climb to the very top of the fingerboard, and make the most intricate rhythms sound easy and natural, all the while producing a tone of beguiling sweetness and purity. O'Connor's new concerto, The American Seasons, purports to take its inspiration from Vivaldi's Seasons and Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man. In the slow parts, the melodies sing, dream, and soar; in the fast ones, brilliant, perfectly clear cascades of notes rush by with lightning speed, the rhythms--tossed off with astonishing bow control--jazzy, spiky, and exciting. There is a long, fiendishly difficult cadenza in the last movement. The piece is full of variety, between and also within the movements, but it does get a bit repetitious. Also on the disc is O'Connor's Strings & Threads Suite, a set of 13 dances of many kinds that make it hard to sit still, played without a break but in contrasting tonalities. The program ends with O'Connor's popular Appalachia Waltz in a new orchestral arrangement. The music is lovely, but the record's most breath-taking, memorable element is the fiddling, splendidly supported by the chamber orchestra. --Edith Eisler