Mark O'Connor

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Born: August 5, 1961; Seattle, WA  
Mark O'Connor is an astonishingly versatile American violinist and composer who has had exceptional success in country and bluegrass music, jazz, classical, and crossover projects.

He began to win country fiddling competitions when he was a teenager and already intended to pursue a career in this music. He closely studied the playing of such popular violinists as the European jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and the Texas fiddler Benny
Read more Thomasson. By the time he was 21, he had already played as a sideman with Grappelli, including a performance at Carnegie Hall.

He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1983, determined to make a living as a musician. But the fiddle, once the predominant instrumental sound of country music, had faded to a mainly supporting role to the plucked strings and drums of modern country. Although he did play mandolin, he took two years to be widely noticed. This came about because the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band engaged him to play on a single, "High Horse," that became a hit.

O'Connor immediately became in demand as a session artist. During the rest of the decade he participated in over 450 albums, working with leading artists such as Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Clint Black, Jimmy Buffett, and Randy Travis. He was a member of groups called Strength in Numbers, The Dixie Dregs, and The Dregs, and began to make his own albums. Around 1990, he gave up session work as a regular occupation to concentrate on his own playing and composition.

He wrote much of his own music and studied composition. The music he wrote became increasingly sophisticated and tended to use more elements from music other than country, bluegrass, and folk, and to take on classical formal and harmonic practices. His first album on a classical music label, Sony Classical, was with the famous classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma and a versatile but jazz-oriented bassist, Edgar Meyer. The CD, Appalachia Waltz, featuring compositions by O'Connor, was a large crossover hit that impressed classical critics with its craft, attractiveness, and originality.

The 1996 Atlanta Olympic Organizing Committee invited him to write a work for its ceremonies, Olympic Reel. And also in 1993, he wrote a full-scale violin concerto using traditional American fiddling technique, calling it Fiddle Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. The work was widely praised, and in the five years after its composition was performed over 150 times, making it the most performed of all modern violin concertos during that period. He was asked to contribute music to the six-part PBS documentary series The American Revolution. His music for the series, arranged into a suite called Liberty! was released on Sony Classical and was another great success. It included as guest artists Ma and jazz/classical trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. It features his own compositions and arrangement of traditional American music.

The New York Times has described his career as "one of the most spectacular journeys in recent American Music" and the Los Angeles Times has noticed that he has crossed over so many genre lines that he can only be classified by his personal style.

He has written a Fiddle Concerto No. 2 ("Fanfare for the Volunteer") and a concerto for two violins and orchestra, which he premiered in September, 2000, at Carnegie Hall, playing with Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg. He has also written works that do not feature a solo violin part, including an orchestral piece called The American Seasons, a string quartet, and several shorter chamber pieces.

In 2000, he released Appalachian Journey, another collaboration with Ma and Meyer, this time also with vocalists Alison Krauss and James Taylor. Read less
Browse 1-16 of 16 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Simple Gifts / Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
    Label: Cms Live   Catalog: CMSL006 Release Date: 11/11/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Louis Moreau Gottschalk,  Antonín Dvorák,  Samuel Barber,  Mark O'Connor  ... 
    Performer:  Gilles Vonsattel,  Arnaud Sussmann,  Wu Han,  Paul Neubauer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
    CD: $14.99
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  • 2.
    Blanc / Angele Dubeau, La Pieta
    Label: Analekta   Catalog: 28737 Release Date: 03/18/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Garry Schyman,  Osvaldo Golijov,  Adrian Munsey,  Marjan Mozetich  ... 
    Performer:  Angčle Dubeau
    Conductor:  Angčle Dubeau
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Pieta
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  • 3.
    Resounding - Four World Premieres / Russell, Berman, Ahn Trio, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra
    Label: Summit Records   Catalog: 576 Release Date: 10/11/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Christopher Theofanidis,  Yenn Chwen Er,  Roberto Sierra,  Mark O'Connor
    Performer:  Donald Berman
    Conductor:  Tim Russell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ahn Trio
    CD: $14.99
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  • 4.
    Appalachia Waltz / Yo-Yo Ma
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 56116 Release Date: 05/03/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Traditional,  Edgar Meyer,  Mark O'Connor
    Performer:  Edgar Meyer,  Mark O'Connor,  Yo-Yo Ma
    CD: $11.99
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  • 5.
    Beauty In America / Carla Auld, Eric Jacobsen, Ana Maria Rosado
    Label: Msr   Catalog: 1318 Release Date: 12/14/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Beaser,  Gary Schocker,  Mark O'Connor,  Steven Giammarino
    Performer:  Carla Auld,  Ana María Rosado
    Conductor:  Eric Jacobsen
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Beauty In America Orchestra
    On sale! $16.98
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  • 6.
    Appalachian Journey / Ma, Meyer, O'connor, Taylor, Krauss
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 756140 Release Date: 07/20/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Edgar Meyer,  Mark O'Connor,  Stephen Foster,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Mark O'Connor,  Yo-Yo Ma,  James Taylor,  Alison Krauss
    CD: $11.99
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  • 7.
    Memories And Souvenirs
    Label: Calabaza Records   Catalog: 50133925 Release Date: 01/01/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Mark Summer,  Osvaldo Golijov,  Gaspar Cassadó,  Adam Silverman  ... 
    Performer:  Amy Sue Barston,  Evan Solomon,  Gabriel Kader
    CD: $31.99
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  • 8.
    Journey To The New World - Duarte, Niles, Etc / Sharon Isbin, Joan Baez, Mark O'connor
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 745456 Release Date: 03/24/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Mark O'Connor,  John Jacob Niles,  John Duarte,  Andrew York  ... 
    Performer:  Sharon Isbin,  Mark O'Connor,  Joan Baez
    CD: $14.99
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  • 9.
    O'Connor: Americana Symphony, Violin Concerto No 6 / O'Connor, Alsop
    Label: Omac   Catalog: 5639155989 Release Date: 03/10/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Mark O'Connor
    Performer:  Mark O'Connor
    Conductor:  Marin Alsop,  Joel Smirnoff
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baltimore Symphony Orchestra,  Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra
    CD: $15.99
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  • 10.
    The Essential Yo-Yo Ma
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 93927 Release Date: 08/16/2005   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Antonio Carlos Jobim,  Antonín Dvorák,  Johannes Brahms,  Joseph Brackett  ... 
    Performer:  Yo-Yo Ma,  Kathryn Stott,  Nilson Matta,  Rosa Passos  ... 
    Conductor:  Kurt Masur,  Ennio Morricone,  Chen Xieyang,  Tan Dun  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra,  Claude Bolling Ensemble  ... 
    CD: $18.99
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  • 11.
    Classic Yo-yo / Yo-yo Ma
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 89667 Release Date: 09/18/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Astor Piazzolla,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Antonín Dvorák,  George Gershwin  ... 
    Performer:  Hector Console,  Yo-Yo Ma,  Leonardo Marconi,  Nestor Marconi  ... 
    Conductor:  Ton Koopman,  Seiji Ozawa,  John Williams
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Los Angeles Recording Arts Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $14.99
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  • 12.
    Appalachian Sketches / O'Connor, Gloriae Dei Cantores
    Label: Paraclete Recordings   Catalog: 3348 Release Date: 08/07/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Mark O'Connor
    Performer:  Mark O'Connor
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gloriae Dei Cantores
    CD: $17.99
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  • 13.
    Heartland - An Appalachian Anthology /Ma, Bell, Fleck, Et Al
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 89683 Release Date: 07/03/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Mark O'Connor,  Traditional,  Edgar Meyer,  Stephen Foster
    Performer:  John Mock,  Russ Barenberg,  Mark Schatz,  John Jarvis  ... 
    CD: $11.99
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  • 14.
    O'connor: Fanfare For The Volunteer /O'connor, Mercurio, Lpo
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 61679 Release Date: 10/19/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Mark O'Connor
    Performer:  Mark O'Connor
    Conductor:  Steven Mercurio
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
    CD: $13.99
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  • 15.
    Yo-yo Ma Solo - O'connor, Sheng, Wilde, Tcherepnin, Kodaly
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 64114 Release Date: 09/21/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Mark O'Connor,  Zoltán Kodály,  Alexander Tcherepnin,  David Wilde  ... 
    Performer:  Yo-Yo Ma
    CD: $11.99
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  • 16.
    O'connor: Fiddle Concerto; String Quartet
    Label: Warner Brothers   Catalog: 45846 Release Date: 03/28/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Mark O'Connor
    Performer:  Carter Brey,  Edgar Meyer,  Mark O'Connor,  Daniel Phillips
    Conductor:  Marin Alsop
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concordia Orchestra
    CD: $14.99
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