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Mark O'Connor

String Quartets No.'s 2 & 3

(OMAC; US: 26 May 2009; UK: 26 May 2009)

Classical folk

Violinist and composer Mark O’Connor is a musical deconstructionist. He takes big musical themes and breaks them down into small components that he manipulates in modern and heartfelt ways. On his most recent disc, Quartets No.‘s 2 & 3, O’Connor takes on two American traditions, bluegrass and old-time music, and turns them into abstract string quartets, resembling something Aaron Copeland might have created during the 1950s in their formal combination of robust vitality and folk motifs. Echoes of melodies repeat themselves to create hooks but always dissipate rather than move to a climax.


At times, it sounds metaphorically like O’Connor and company (Ida Kavafian, violin; Paul Neubauer, viola, and Matt Haimowitz, cello) are playing their respective stringed instruments with straw push brooms. The music seems brushed more than bowed except when someone takes a solo. Each of the players is a master musician. O’Connor’s quartets allow them to show off their virtuosity, but in the end, it’s the quality of the two quartets that matters most, and they are both damned good.

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Steven Horowitz has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, where he continues to teach a three-credit online course on "Rock and Roll in America". He has written for many different popular and academic publications including American Music, Paste and the Icon. Horowitz is a firm believer in Paul Goodman's neofunctional perspective on culture and that Sam Cooke was right, a change is gonna come.


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26 May 2010
It's a partial reissue, but for fans of O'Connor's neo-bluegrass mode, these recordings with Chris Thile and Bryan Sutton, are sure to blow your mind (and annoy your spouse).
3 Sep 2009
The brilliant but comforting polymath fiddler, hitting on all cylinders in 2009.
30 Mar 2009
Like Benny Goodman, Mark O’Connor is a virtuoso in the realm of popular music, and also like Goodman, he easily and brilliantly performs classical music, as well.
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