Stories » Mark O'Connor continues his musical journey into the heart of America on: String Quartets No.'s 2 & 3

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Mark O'Connor continues his musical journey into the heart of America on: String Quartets No.'s 2 & 3

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Mark O'Connor continues his musical journey into the heart of America on his latest album, containing his String Quartets No.'s 2 & 3. Like all of O'Connor's work, each piece takes deep inspiration from the landscape and traditions of America to produce music that is both familiar and original. Masterfully played by O'Connor, Ida Kavafian, Paul Neubauer, and Matt Haimovitz, the album is slated for a May 26th release from OMAC Records. The release follows a major performance of the work at New York's Merkin Hall, with some of the classical world's brightest lights in attendance, including Josh Bell, Lara St. John, Angella Ahn and the Ahn Trio, and Grammy nominees Anastisia Khitruk, Philippe Quint, and Sara Sant'Ambrogio.

Quartet No. 2 reinterprets the bluegrass O'Connor played as a child into a hypnotic sonic cloud of repeating motifs and call-and-response pieces. Utilizing the same techniques he used to turn Johnny Cash's vocals and guitar hooks into his piano trio "Poets & Prophets", O'Connor breaks bluegrass into its component atoms and reassembles it into something recognizable but subtly altered. "I wanted to comprehensively dive down deep in to the strains of this music," O'Connor explains. "I wanted to further discover what this American musical form means to string playing, what it means to this quartet, and, ultimately, what my own past means to me today."

Quartet No.3, "Old Time", was written at the behest of New York's Hudson Commission to commemorate the 400th anniversary of European settlement in the Hudson Valley region. Like O'Connor's Americana Symphony, it is a sweeping, cinematic piece that conjures the optimism and adventure of a young America through its use of old-time fiddling techniques as a compositional jumping-off point. As O'Connor himself puts it, "Techniques such as re-harmonization, development, and canonic applications spill over each other like the Hudson tributaries in the Adirondacks. The result is a wholly participating body emphasizing transitions from the traditional to the contemporary in sound and style."