John O'Conor, Ardhowen theatre, Enniskillen

75 this year pianist John O'Conor is one of the greatest Irish classical pianists. Other than Barry Douglas to the lay person no-one comes even close to being in the same league or approaches an equivalent stature. Here the Dubliner played a solo …

Published: 2 Sep 2022. Updated: 25 days.

75 this year pianist John O'Conor is one of the greatest Irish classical pianists. Other than Barry Douglas to the lay person no-one comes even close to being in the same league or approaches an equivalent stature. Here the Dubliner played a solo Beethoven themed concert in front of a surprisingly full theatre of around 250 people in a non-stifling atmosphere. Clearly there is an appetite locally for solo piano and above all to hear O'Conor.

The first half was the better of the two with the Sonata No. 8 (the ''Pathétique'' -1798) and ''Moonlight'' Sonata No. 14 - 1802 - certainly familiar fare and no less satisfying for that fact. Following the short interval the less succinct ''Appassionata'' Sonata No. 23 did not work so well because the 'Andante con Moto' movement was a little ragged. Certainly the great pianist has a professorial touch occasionally enlivened by matador ta-da like grandiloquence in suitable moments at the end of passages that had required more power and had emerged from the deep passion of preoccupied thought to require a certain definitive emphasis.

One of the greats still playing more than well in ideal circumstances by the tranquil Erne at dusk not too much of a leap of the imagination to imagine Lake Lucerne itself drawing on the moonlight comparison a critic once made that spawned the sonata's nickname. O'Conor was in front of a listening audience who probably rarely in any given decade manage to hear solo piano of this calibre delivered on a very fine piano in this small town in the Fermanagh west. So the planets could be said to have aligned for so many particularly well ahead of next week's harvest moon, a mystical time of the year in these parts. There was hardly a need for an encore - of course O'Conor more than deserved one and quickly provided one given the clamour - because the concert had a certain atmosphere that worked perfectly without any at all. Retired architect Richard Pierce's heartfelt introduction to O'Conor at the beginning of this Music in Fermanagh presentation set the admirable tone for an evening of familiar classical music to savour played by a master whose contribution to the same in Ireland and beyond over many years is simply incalculable. SG

John O'Conor, photo: press

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George Colligan, King's Dream, PJCE Records ****

Live in Arklow (2020) was the last George Colligan we know. That blew us away - the US pianist with superb Northern Ireland ex-Brandon Flowers and Madeleine Peyroux drummer Darren Beckett and Republic of Ireland bassist big Dave Redmond doing the …

Published: 1 Sep 2022. Updated: 25 days.

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Live in Arklow (2020) was the last George Colligan we know. That blew us away - the US pianist with superb Northern Ireland ex-Brandon Flowers and Madeleine Peyroux drummer Darren Beckett and Republic of Ireland bassist big Dave Redmond doing the business. This does too. Here it's solo Colligan, the ex-DeJohnettian and former erudite Jazz Truth blogger playing his own tunes on an album to be released in November also called King's Dream and in this one track coming over pastoral and even a little Elton John-ish (sans vocals of course) or even Bruce Hornsby-like in its easy adult pop soulful sounding instrumental cadential resonances and delicious lead line matched to almost processional chord change response in its feel. Perfect for the evening, deep immersion, and a gem. The ''king'' in the titling is MLK - Dr Martin Luther King - an enduring symbol and role model for humanity to this very day, the ''dream'' at the heart of the great world statesman's history making speech. And this track speaks out in its own evocative and sincerely humble way.