O'Connor String Quartet

O'Connor String Quartet

O'Connor String Quartet
Mark O'Connor, violin
Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violin
Gillian Gallagher, viola
Patrice Jackson, cello

Among the most talented and exciting string players on the scene, these four virtuosi combine for an unforgettable evening of explorations in new musical territory. The concert offerings: O'Connor's String Quartet No. 2 "Bluegrass" which features blazingly intricate rhythms" soulful, high lonesome harmonies" achingly beautiful melodies. O'Connor's latest, String Quartet No. 3 "Old-Time" composed on commission for the Quadricentennial of the Hudson River. Also featured are high flying, virtuoso duets with each possible pairing of the group members. All of these celebrated works draw on O'Connor's own well-documented (and uniquely American) musical history.

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Mark O’Connor - is a multi Grammy Award winning composer and violinist/fiddler with over two-million CDs sold as a solo recording artist. His orchestral
Compositions, including his new Americana Symphony and Improvised Violin Concerto, have received over 600 performances with symphony orchestras to date. The recently released O'Connor Method has been widely praised. Strad Magazine says "The succession of melodies is attractive and carefully planned. If O’Connor is the new Suzuki, then Boil ‘em Cabbage Down is the new Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Viola, Cello and Orchestra Book I were released this year and portions of Violin Book III will be unveiled at 2011 Summer Camps. Mr. O'Connor regularly conducts residencies at Juilliard School, Harvard University, Cleveland Institute of Music, Rice University, University of Maryland, Curtis Institute, Eastman School of Music, Tanglewood, and Aspen Summer Festival among others. Mr. O'Connor was Artist-in-Residence at UCLA for the 2008-2009 season. He currently serves as Artist-in-Residence for the 2nd year in a row at the University of Miami. Mr. O'Connor is the founder and president of the internationally recognized Mark O'Connor String Camp, held this year in Boston at the Berklee College of Music and  in Johnson City, TN at ETSU. Online, an amazing collection of 70 hand selected videos that span Mr. O'Connor's career can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/user/MarkOConnor. For sheet music, digital
music and more information; www.markoconnor.com.

Kelly Hall-Tompkins – one of New York City’s most in-demand violinists, Kelly Hall-Tompkins dynamic career spans solo, chamber, and orchestral performance.  In 2010 Ms Hall-Tompkins signed with Columbia Artists Management and is a collaborator with violinist/composer and fellow roster artist Mark O’Connor in his Double Violin Concerto and first violinist of the O’Connor String Quartet.  Ms Hall-Tompkins was winner of a 2003 Naumburg International Violin Competition Honorarium Prize and a Concert Artists Guild Career Grant.  She is a concertmaster of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of New York and was soloist for the debut concert in Zankel Hall in ’07.  She has also been soloist with Dallas Symphony, Evansville Philharmonic, Greenville Symphony, Philharmonic of Uruguay, W. Piedmont Symphony among others.  As recitalist she was featured at the National Academy of Sciences and Phillips Collection in Washington DC, Dame Myra Hess in Chicago, WFMT radio, and New York’s WQXR.  In 2008, she released her second CD, “In My Own Voice” to critical acclaim.  Ms Hall-Tompkins’ distinguished orchestral career has included extensive touring in the US and internationally with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, over 150 performances with the New York Philharmonic and as first violinist with NJ Symphony.  Ms Hall-Tompkins is founder of charity series “Music Kitchen – Food for the Soul”, bringing over 50 concerts to NYC homeless, including Emanuel Ax and 100 other artists since 2005.

Gillian Gallagher - Violist Gillian Gallagher is making a considerable name for herself as a  multi-dimensional artist and chamber musician, having collaborated with such eminent performers as violinist Arnold Steinhardt, pianists Claude Frank and Emanuel Ax, the Tokyo String Quartet, and violinist and composer Mark O’Connor. Gillian tours the United States extensively as violist of both O’Connor’s acclaimed Appalachia Waltz Trio, with whom she has performed since 2007, and the O’Connor Quartet. Having participated in and performed at festivals around the world, such as the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan, the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy, the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, and California’s Music@Menlo, Gillian has also given recitals in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater. A devoted promoter of new and contemporary music, since 2005 Gillian has premiered over a dozen new works at the Museum of Modern Art’s Summergarden Series in New York. Gillian is also a dedicated and enthusiastic teacher, and has been on viola faculty at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Mark O’Connor’s String Camps, and the Port Townsend Chamber Music Festival. Originally from Saratoga Springs, NY, Gillian received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School, where she studied with Heidi Castleman, Misha Amory, and Hsin-Yun Huang.

Patrice Jackson - A native of St. Louis, Ms. Jackson began piano lessons with her mother at the age of three and cello lessons with her father at the age of eight. At thirteen she made her debut with the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra, performing the Elgar Cello Concerto. Ms. Jackson has taken master classes with world-renowned Brazilian cellist Aldo Parisot, and has studied chamber music with Claude Frank and the Tokyo String Quartet at the Yale School of Music, as well as with the Juilliard String Quartet at the Juilliard School. Ms. Jackson, who performs on an Alberto Blanchi cello generously donated by Franklin and Tresa McCallie of Kirkwood, Missouri and Doris Taylor Cope of Chattanooga, Tennessee, has been a student of Janos Starker, Aldo Parisot, Joel Krosnick, and Bonnie Hampton. She is a graduate of the Juilliard School in New York and the Yale School of Music in New Haven. Ms. Jackson has won numerous competitions and awards throughout her career, including the Alton Symphony Orhcestra / Merie Stillwell Solo Competition, University City Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Competition, Laclede String Quartet Solo Competition, and Laclede String Quartet Chamber Music Competition. Ms. Jackson is currently a member of the O'Connor String Quartet.

Mark O'Connor String Quartet at Tanglewood

"It was rare, if not unprecedented, for Tanglewood to turn over the stage to one composer for a program of his own works. Perhaps the nearest recent precedent was the five days of Elliott Carter concerts in 2008...three fellow virtuosos who round out his ensemble: violinist Kelly Hall Tompkins, violist Gillian Gallagher and cellist Patrice Jackson...astounding string playing."

REVIEW: Mark O’Connor String Quartet
Music from Tanglewood, 2011
-Nelson Brill - nelsonbrill@stereotimes.com

Nestled within the embrace of the rolling Berkshire Hills of Lenox, Massachusetts is Tanglewood, one of America’s most cherished and storied summer music venues. The 2011 Tanglewood season has just begun. At the front entrance of the private club at Highwood, one is immediately greeted by a black and white photo of a young Leonard Bernstein, taken of him at a celebration held in this very hallway. Here, a debonair Bernstein is concentrating totally on the gentleman standing in front of him, who happens to be the be-spectacled composer, Aaron Copland (in whose honor a sculpture was recently erected in a garden at Tanglewood). In the photo, Copland is seen deeply involved in expressing some elusive thought to the informal audience surrounding him, with his hands gesturing in emphasis towards some unknown vista or uncharted musical idea. The expression of the young Bernstein is filled with wide-eyed admiration and wonder. It is as if Bernstein is listening to something strange and new to his ear, something bewildering yet beguiling. Here then, (through these photos of Masters past) we are ushered into the next chapter in the illustrious history of Tanglewood. We come, like Bernstein, wide-eyed to listen to the wonderment created by the masters of the present; those young musicians who have been invited to teach and perform here and the composers and orchestras of this generation who will lead the music into the future.

This evening’s concert is being held at Ozawa Hall (“Ozawa”), a most beautiful musical venue with acoustics as clear, natural and dynamic as you can ever imagine. This spectacular quality of Ozawa’s acoustic space was perfectly mated to this evening’s concert that featured the sweeping melodies and sharp-shinned textures of violinist Mark O’Connor and his String Quartet. Past recordings by O’Connor, including his 2004 Hot Swing Trio’s Live In New York [OMAC Records] and his earlier masterpieces with producer Steven Epstein at the helm (notably The American Seasons [Sony 89660] in which O’Connor is accompanied by the ember glow of strings provided by the Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra, superbly recorded in Mechanics Hall, Worcester, MA), O’ Connor has mined the veins of Americana with a unique compositional flare. Tonight at Ozawa, O’Connor and his quartet performed his String Quartet No. 2, “Bluegrass” (2005) and his String Quartet No. 3, “Old-Time” (2008), the latter commissioned by the Hudson River Commission marking four hundred years of music-making dating from the first European settlements along the Hudson River. “Bluegrass” opened with furrows of string emphasis, with the four members of the Quartet digging in deep unison (like chopping wood in the liveliness of Ozawa’s acoustic space). Jigs, sprightly fragments of Bluegrass and foot stomping fiddle rhythms all collided and meshed in O’Connor’s “Bluegrass” vision. Cellist Patrice Jackson swayed aside her cello, bringing a pungent and deep undertow to the lumberjack proceedings. The last note of the first movement melted away with a delicate shimmer as O’Connor, violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins and violist Gillian Gallagher held the barest touch to their strings, sounding like butter melting away in a frying pan; all soft, fragrant and bubbly.

The second movement of “Bluegrass” involved, in part, the ingenious use by O’Connor and Hall-Tompkins of striking bow to only the most diminutive section of their violin bridge, producing a furious chopping, percussive sound that conjured up a freight train ghostly clicking down tracks. Classical elements melded here with old-time fiddle tunes to create a stirring, soulful stew that was ladled by O’Connor’s warm violin lines into the bowl of a third slower movement, fashioned around a gospel melody. O’Connor possesses a beautiful, capacious sound on his violin that astounded in its ability to express tonal warmth and string body even on the most rigorous tremolo or slightest vertiginous call up high. Once again, the superb crispness and textural definition provided by Ozawa’s acoustic space allowed the listener to follow each stroke and staccato pluck; each sweep up the violin’s register and each counterpoint sashay back and forth. As the shards of melody and chromatic angles furiously come to a hushed, unifying final note in “Bluegrass”, it was as if you could hear a pin (or splinter) drop in Ozawa Hall. Even the lone cardinal in the distant pines had paused his song long enough to listen to this wonderment created at Tanglewood.

Mark O'Connor brings it on... two classical string quartets at Chamber Music Northwest

"The music married bluegrass and spikey classical styles, like Bartok in Kentucky, O'Connor joked, referring to the Hungarian composer. The results? Rigorous counterpoint, reharmonized fiddle tunes and propulsive rhythms... great.. Matt Haimovitz dazzled the crowd with his cello's growls and roars. Paul Neubauer's bow arm blistered the strings... And Ida Kavafian's cascading scales flirted with O'Connor's.

O'Connor, pied piper of a new brand of Americana, is a maverick. His goal is make us fall in love with American music - the old timey stuff as well as a new breed that he's inventing as he goes along. It's the language and spirit of this country's native harmony, delivered in classical garb."
-The Oregonian


First review in on Mark O'Connor's new String Quartets CD

Review: Interchanging Idioms and Instant Encore
Wednesday, 3 June 2009 by Chip Michael
Mark O'Connor: String Quartets No.'s 2 & 3 striking and new

"Mark O'Connor is interested in creating a new American music, taking elements from his own roots to create something edgy, energetic and innovative. His newest CD, String Quartets 2 & 3 steps up enthusiasm for the American art form of extreme fiddle playing. Not only do the licks and grinds of the fiddle come through with striking color, but he experiments with the classical form of string quartet. Fiddlers to classical violinists and pretty much any one else interested in virtuoso string performance will be thrilled by this new CD.

When I first looked at the CD, I thought the title for String Quartet No 2, "Bluegrass" would leave me with a sense of something country, something Appalachian, something I would enjoy but I'd heard before. Imagine my surprise when the first minute I was embarked on a journey like no other. The music is anything but old and acquainted. The first minute could have been written by any number of modern composers there is such a gritty edge and rhythmic intensity, a hallmark of modern quartet writing. However, only Mark could take that same edge and transfer it naturally into the fascinating bluegrass music... Just listening to it once through was not enough. It was only after the fourth time that I could wrap my head around the intricate intensity of the music.

...Adding rich slides and double stops to the music to re-create a strong sense of American bluegrass, Mark is able to craft a series of melodies that sound wholly familiar and yet remarkably new. Each member of the quartet is highlighted, as are a number of musical styles. Yet the movement retains a unity, seamlessly moving through to create a whole...Mark's String Quartet No. 2 "Bluegrass" is a fast paced journey through the styles of bluegrass and extreme fiddle playing, rather like compacting a 2 hour concert in just over half an hour. The journey is exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.

...There are times when individual gets to shine and yet other times when the entire ensemble is so in-touch with each other the music is a unified front. At the end it's impossible to keep your foot still with the feel-good sense of the music...Mark has done such a nice job integrating the entire quartet together (and each of the instrumentalists working together as a single unit) it is nearly impossible to pick out any individual performance. When Mark chose to work with Ida Kavafian, Paul Neubauer and Matt Haimovitz, he obviously opted to work with musicians of such a caliber to create not a collection of solo performances, but a unified ensemble which perfectly matches his music."


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## REVIEW ##

St. Paul, Minn. - "It's hard to put the past behind you, and sometimes you don't have to. On his new recording of string quartets, fiddler Mark O'Connor is reviving his past.
As a young violin student, O'Connor studied classical music. As a teenager, he became more interested in folk and jazz, and later worked as a Nashville session musician playing bluegrass and jazz for several years.

About 25 years ago, O'Connor came full circle when he started composing and performing classical music with his own Americana flair. On his latest release, O'Connor accents his String Quartets No. 2 & 3 with elements of bluegrass and old-time music.

It's been 400 years since Henry Hudson sailed up the Hudson River. Last year the Hudson Commission asked O'Connor to write a quartet to celebrate that anniversary and the early days of the first European settlements......After hearing what he can do with old-time and bluegrass traditions, I can hardly wait to hear the Texas swing string quartet."
Read Full Article Here

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String Quartet No. 2 "Bluegrass"
Composed February – May, 2005

As I continue to develop other artistic interpretations of vernacular and idiomatic music of my own past, I uncover new pathways in discovering how much this music from my childhood means to me in the present tense. With my String Quartet No 2, I bring to bare one of my favorite music styles I learned as an 11 and 12 year old, Bluegrass.

Bluegrass music is the vocabulary I use in the quartet and it instructs the musical language of the string quartet art form. Although in this case I admit that just like my own classical string writing is unique, such is the case with my early bluegrass playing. In other words this is not a classical interpretation of roots music, rather it is a modern interpretation of modern interpreted bluegrass music. Or put in a different way, it is my own version of my own version! The approach results in a doubling up of the musical uniqueness of my Quartet's conceptual endeavor, and ends up providing the listener with a new musical idea.

The process in which I used to compose the Quartet is a bit of a departure, even from my usual methods. I got the idea for this compositional process from the piano trio I had written just prior to it, Poets And Prophets. In that trio I utilized Johnny Cash vocal phrases and rhythmic hooks from his early group the Tennessee Two to thematically inspire the music and developmentally produce the content. Here with my Quartet, I kept that approach but now I simply wanted to use my own licks! But this is where the process became even more unusual. I hardly played any bluegrass in the last twenty years. But these Bluegrass themes, rhythms and tunes I use in the Quartet are new. I mean new to me as well! This all may be a little like riding the bicycle and never forgetting how, but with an additional twist. Even though I had not pursued bluegrass music, somewhere in the back of my mind I was still developing a repertoire of the hottest bluegrass licks and the most soulful bluegrass harmony I could muster up. I just hadn't realized it. That was until I was ready to write this "classical" string quartet.

From the bouncy bluegrass vocal like melodies, to the blistering fast hot licks, to the rhythmic bow "chopping" to the gospel yearnings of the slow movement, I wanted to comprehensively dive down deep in to the strains of this music. I wanted to further discover what this American musical art form means to string playing, what it means to this quartet, and ultimately what my own past means to me today.

Mark O'Connor – 4/8/05


String Quartet No. 3 "Old-Time"
Composed January - April, 2008

Program Notes

String Quartet No. 3 "Old-Time" was composed on the occasion marking 400 years of history dating from the days of the first European settlements.  My specific task from the Hudson Commission was to concentrate music based on the natural habitat and beauty of the Hudson as well as on the time of the first European settlers. It was natural for me to think about old-time fiddling in this light. In 1909 Washington Irving described the Catskill Mountains as a "dismembered branch of the Appalachian Mountains." My own Dutch ancestors settled in the Hudson Valley in the early 1600's, and eventually traveled down the Appalachians to settle in the South in the early 1800's. The old-time fiddling that dominated those areas along that route is the musical language utilized in creating this String Quartet.

The Hudson River is remarkable in its importance to America, and its vast beauty continues to inspire.  I had a lot to draw from including my own connections to the Hudson. My own family members were among the region's first settlers from Holland and our family lore holds that distant relatives had dealings with the Native American population and may have been involved in the purchase of Manhattan Island. Our family's history records that my distant grandmother was born the "first white child"in what is now the state of New York, and after helping to establish New Amsterdam (now New York City), my family members were eventually banished by the English to populate the Hudson Valley around modern day Albany.  Natives referred to the area as "Once The Pine Plains."As fate would have it, my ancestor was kidnapped by the Mohawks. But out of that incident, a bridge of culture was realized when she fell in love with the chief and married him! She had his children, and at her insistence, all of them were educated in the city. These Dutch settlers and Native American Mohawks are my ancestors.

My interest in the rich traditions of old-time fiddling, as well as my own family history throughout the Hudson River area for many generations, combine as the seeds of inspiration for the Quartet No. 3. I employ rhythms and harmonies forming a mosaic of impressionistic wonderment about the area with its rich habitat, early struggles, and development. Speed to the present day, I myself live in Manhattan, and just a couple of blocks from the Hudson River. Working on this quartet makes me feel like I have come full circle in this piece both in musical concepts and in historical references. I remember as a young boy winning first prize for fiddling in the Catskill Mountains festival in the Hudson area. (It will be forever etched in my memory because lighting struck a man on the grounds, and he did not survive.) My knowledge of the region and all of the connections throughout the history of my family are vivid with beauty, irony, and so many confluences, both profound and simple. In many ways like the early settling of Appalachia and the musically rich traditions it produced along the way.

For the musical genesis of the Quartet, I initially created phrases from the fiddle that were molded out of old-time fiddling tradition. With technical twists and turns, the phrases became unique and new but all the while still connected to the tradition. It is these phrases that I used as material to create the String Quartet. Through the process of composing, techniques such as re- harmonization, development, canonic applications spill over each other like the Hudson tributaries in the Adirondacks.  The counterpoint of the Quartet invigorates and establishes itself. The result is a wholly participating body emphasizing transitions from the traditional to the contemporary in sound and style. The music here is no longer fiddle music as the inventions of the quartet embarks on a new story, a new way to play, and with a new musical idea to put forward.
Note: Quartet No. 3 "Old-Time" is the 2nd quartet in a long-term compositional project of six string quartets, all of them informed by different traditions of fiddling and American music.

Mark O'Connor – March 26, 2008

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O'Connor String Quartet at Meany Hall, Seattle, WA

updated 1 year ago