Mark O'Connor = Brahms

Written by Andrew Druckenbrod on .

Mark O'ConnorWell, only in the sense that he waited a while to write his first symphony.

Yes, news came out this week that violinist, fiddler and composer Mark O'Connor will be releasing his "Americana Symphony" in March on his own label, OMAC.

Look, I am not going to prejudge this, but the subtitle, "Variations on Appalachia Waltz" makes me question its appropriateness for a full symphony. Perhaps it would have been better marketed as an orchestral version of the popular piece. What's in a name, anyway? Probably the best symphony of recent years, John Adams' "Naive and Sentimental Music," doesn't even purport to be a symphony. But to call a series of variations (six) on a theme a symphony seems a stretch. Certainly, the press release stretches the truth when it claims that there was "clamoring among the classical community for
O'Connor's vision to be expressed in a full symphony"!

IMO, "Appalachia Waltz" of 1993 is a wonderful piece, a gentle melody unfurling, and I will be happy even if this new project doesn't fit my "idea" of what makes a symphony, so long as the variations don't stray too far from the simple mood of the original. I am no chauvinist for the symphony; I just like good music (subjective as that is).

At least he has a good champion in Marin Alsop, who conducted the Baltimore SO on the recording. And you have to admire his love for the art:

"Today was one of the best days for my music," said O'Connor. "To say that today was not a dream come true for me would be
a lie."

I also thought this quote to be interesting: "Any composition is not quite finished until it is recorded." Take that, textual critics and urtext apologists...the recording is the new score (actually it has been for many musicians and composers for years.)



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