American Seasons (Seasons of an American Life)

American Seasons (Seasons of an American Life)
American Seasons (Seasons of an American Life) (1999)
Three movements - 40 min. Instrumentation " strings, guitar continuo.

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Mark O'Connor took his American Seasons concerto to Dresden, Germany for their historic music festival June 7th receiving 10 curtain calls for his performance. O'Connor was joined by the Camerata Bern chamber orchestra of Switzerland and with conductor Eric Jacobsen. "I was blown away by the response to my American music style here!" Mark said after the performance. "Following a great Mendelssohn piece by the orchestra on the first half and being in Germany for the first time in a long time for my music, I was wondering what it would be like...They would not let us off the stage the audience was so enthusiastic for it! I have never gotten that many curtain calls for new music before! I was so pleased. The orchestra played it great!"

American Seasons is perhaps one of Mark O'Connor's most critically acclaimed compositions, composed for the 2000 celebration of New York's Troy Hall, it was recorded for the Sony Classical label with Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra and Scott Yoo. It has been performed over 50 times to date. Some of the most visible performances include the Los Angeles Philharmonic concert paired with Vivaldi's Four Seasons at the Hollywood Bowl, and a nationally aired PBS Special with the Buffalo Philharmonic also paired with Vivaldi's Four Seasons.


American Seasons
(Seasons Of An American Life)


"The American Seasons" (Seasons Of An American Life) is a concerto for Violin And Chamber Orchestra. Composed in 1999, the music celebrates the various stages of an American life at the waking of the 21st century. Constructed in four movements and representing four stages of life, birth, adolescence, maturity and old age, the music also pays homage to Shakespeare's Season's Of Man "His acts being seven ages", incorporated throughout the work.

"Spring" introduces the ideas of birth and infancy. After the principal theme has been stated, there is a violin cadenza encountering all twelve major keys and a 13/8 time signature representing the ancient golden ratio. These elements recall birth with all the possibilities a new life offers. Ending the movement, the principal theme is repeated with more complexity... as if posing life's questions.

"Summer" represents the excitement and bravado of youthful adolescence and young adulthood. For the style of this movement I use a happy-go-lucky Blues voice which melds into Swing. I identify swing rhythm in all of 20th century American music culture as a common thread that runs though Ragtime through Rock and Roll on to Rap. Swing means testing the waters and pushing the envelope for lovers and soldiers.

"Fall" is the slow movement symbolizing the wisdom of maturity. It is a peaceful theme with nostalgic strokes. It is a time for sincere reflection and enjoying ones accomplishments in life.

"Winter" embodies the complexities and knowledge of an older person and that of a dying person. The movement begins with the principal them from "Spring", but with a dissonance that emanates from a lifetime full of emotions and responsibilities. In the middle of the movement is a transition to an old world. I use my personal ancestry from Ireland as a foundation from which to rediscover one's lineage and explore the meaning and value of a cultural legacy.

The exploration evolves into a four- and five-part fugue with a reel, jig, air, countered bass and the motif from the principal theme. All these elements, dances and melodies appear simultaneously and converge to form a unique insight to life's consequences from a historical perspective. Following the fugue, the principal theme finds it's way back in. It sounds much as it did at birth. In the end, the solo violin cadenza carries the last earthly breaths before the violin and orchestra once again join in harmony to focus on a new life being transformed somewhere else. Life's four seasons in perpetuity.

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O'Connor performs the American Seasons with conductor Joseph Silverstein

The virtuoso violinist is a roots rock U.S. fiddle champ and one-time king of Nashville's blue chip session players who has spent recent years exploring the riches of classical music. This amazing session is broken up into two main sections, a four movement thrust through the seasons and then a 13 track segment entitled "Strings and Threads Suite" which draws both poignantly and happily from the intense spirit of his Irish heritage. Both are performed with the Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Scott Yoo. The seasonal sequence is an explicit nod to Vivaldi, wedding to the Shakespearean notion of the seven stages of man. There's also an interesting pull towards grounding the section in very American sounds like the acoustic steel string guitar. "Spring" opens optimistically with a growing rhythmic energy, while "Summer" goes from lazy and laid back to suddenly dance-driven with speedy fiddle stroking. "Fall" dawns with a sense of wistful melancholy, then "Winter" zips in with a rush of energy, a musical snowstorm that ebbs and flows in fits and starts; there's even a jig in the snow. The second suite keeps the jig vibe alive with "Fair Dancer Reel," then goes from jigs to waltzes to a darker shade of the blues. The impulse with both is to bring folk, jazz, and blues into the classical environment, not contrasting them but mixing them in a completely unique and logical way. The project closes with a seven minute orchestral mood piece called "Appalachia Waltz," which comes across as a meditation after a hectic day spent exploring seasons of both nature and the heart. Close to a modern masterpiece. ~ Jonathan Widran, Rovi

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updated 2 years ago