Pianist John O’Conor grew up in Dublin
listening to traditional Irish music, but that's not what he was playing in his piano lessons. Instead, he focused on music by Beethoven and other Classic and early Romantic composers.
He left Dublin to
study in Vienna, where he won the Beethoven
International Piano Competition in 1973. He has since performed and taught all over the world. He’s also recorded Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas and piano concertos for Telarc Records.
O’Conor has maintained his ties to Ireland
and Irish music. He has moved back to Dublin, and in 1990, he convinced Telarc to let him
record an album of nocturnes by Irish composer John Field, whose works
influenced Chopin. That album was a hit -- it spent several weeks on Billboard
classical charts and has introduced Field’s music to many new listeners.
O'Conor has now combined his classical piano experience
with the traditional Irish music of his youth, in a new album called Irish Classics. The album features old Irish songs and dances arranged
for piano and orchestra. Performing this
lighter style of classical music is new territory for O’Conor, and he has taken
to it quite well.
During my recent interview with O'Conor, we spoke about the Irish Classics album, changes in classical music in Ireland, his partnership with Shenandoah
University in Virginia, traditional Irish music, John Field’s nocturnes,
and the Chieftans – all in just under ten minutes! Take a listen; you can stream or podcast this
Interview with John O'Conor