Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Concert review: Flutist Tara O'Connor steals the spotlight with members of the Orion String Quartet

Monday was the 14th time that the Orion String Quartet has performed in the Chamber Music Pittsburgh series. What has led the presenting organization to engage the group so often?

One reason is the group's violinists, Daniel and Todd Phillips, brothers whose late father performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for nearly 40 years until he retired in 1987. The quartet also has a strong national reputation and has been booked by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and the Sante Fe Chamber Music Festival. The group has also appeared on National Public Radio's "Performance Today."

Their recent Pittsburgh appearance — the second concert of Chamber Music Pittsburgh's annual series at Carnegie Music Hall — included music by Mozart with Grammy-nominated flutist Tara O'Connor, Dvorak and Leon Kirchner. 

The evening began with Ms. O'Connor performing Mozart's Flute Quartet No. 3 in C major, in which the flute replaces the first violin of a standard quartet. Her sound had the perfect balance of warmth and elegance, and she was a delight to listen to, breathing life into the music from the first phrases.

Jeremy Reynolds (Oct 3rd, 2016)

Sounds of America
The Way Things Go

What is most striking about Tara Helen O'Connor's affectionate assemblage of music for flute and piano, written with one exception after the turn of the new century, is how close the flute and piano parts work to establish character, carry the narrative and share the most brilliant parts. Five of the seven works were composed for her and pianist Margaret Kampmeier, and they inhabit the music as if the interactive nature of their musical partnership were their paramount concern and pleasure. Among the seven, which all seem eager to make very pleasant sounds at the very least, Steven Mackey's Crystal Shadows, John Halle's Gaze and Belinda Reynolds Share stand out, while Eric Moe's All Sensation is Already Memory deserves a nod for its fluent virtuosity.

Mackey's duet uses effects like slap-key notes on the flute and stopped tones on the piano as plot devices in a series of fragmented, race-course turns in which the flute and piano chase each other at times like squirrels; Mackey wrote it to play with his wife, and the close intimacy of its inspiration shows in the opportunities it gives O'Connor and Kampmeier to blend and shade their emotional states.

The star of Halle's Gaze is an inebriated 'Rag: Raucous', which uses Beethovenian chunks of sound to introduce a goofy dance; the 'Slow tango/Habanera' second movement gives both players equal kinds of intense emotional displays. Modeled after Stravinsky's Les cinq doigts, Reynold's Share for alto flute displays O'Connor's ability to create impossibly long, slow phrases across many bar-lines.

Laurence Vittes (Aug 1st, 2016)

Oberon's Grove
CMS Summer Evenings 2016 #3

Wednesday July 13th, 2016 - Time flies when you're having fun; I guess that's why Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's second season of Summer Evenings went by so quickly. For three nights, music-lovers have packed Alice Tully Hall to hear some of the most wonderful music ever written played by musicians who are the cream of the classical music crop. That the players were enjoying themselves immensely was evident throughout the series, and joy-filled standing ovations marked the end of each concert.

A toast to Sally and Stephen Clement for 'hosting' the festive wine receptions after each performance, and to Millbrook Vineyards and Winery of the Hudson River Valley for their reds and whites. It seemed that the entire audience stayed after to meet the artists.

While THE MAGIC FLUTE looms large among the vast catalog of Mozart masterworks, it seems the composer was not overly fond of writing for the eponymous instrument. The young maestro had met a wealthy amateur Dutch flautist named Ferdinand De Jean while in Mannheim in late 1777. De Jean commissioned from Mozart a set of concertos and quartets featuring his instrument, but the composer only completed part of the commission and received only a partial fee.

It's therefore rather remarkable that the Flute Quartet in D, K. 285, one of the De Jean commissions, is such a thorough delight. In tonight's performance, the purity and free-flowing grace of Tara Helen O'Connor's playing was lovingly supported by a trio of deluxe string players: Benjamin Beilman (violin), Richard O'Neill (viola), and Keith Robinson (cello). An up-and-down demi-scale motif gave the music a lilting feel, while the elegantly delicate plucking of the strings graciously underscored the flautist's lyricism in the poignant Adagio. Some wonderfully subtle playing from Ben Beilman was a treat, and Ms. O'Connor's brilliance in the Rondo finale had the audience hanging on her every note. I couldn't help thinking that if Mozart could have heard Ms. O'Connor, his attitude towards the flute would have been very, very different.

For Beethoven's Serenade in D major, Op 25, an airy meshing of flute, violin and viola, Ms. O'Connor was joined by Daniel Phillips (violin) and Mr. O'Neill on viola. A charming flute fanfare sets the opening Allegro on its way; a sense of merriment and jaunty give-and-take between the three players made them as much fun to watch as to hear.

The lovely blend of the three voices shone in the Menuet, in which violin and viola converse; the string players then take up a mandolin-like accompaniment figure while Ms. O'Connor's wafts limpid virtuoso passages into the hall. A mini-turbulence springs up for the Allegro molto, where Mr. O'Neill's very nuanced playing drew us in; the rapport of the three players here was endearing to behold.

A hymn-like theme opens the Andante, where a set of variations gives prominence to each player in turn: first flute, then violin, and finally viola. There's a 'surprise' ending here, which was so subtly delivered by our trio of artists that you could hear the audience smiling in appreciation. After a light-hearted Scherzo, a pensive song is heard briefly and then everything bursts into high gear for a chase to the finish. Mr. O'Neill's lithe figure seemed to dance thru the music, and the three musicians shared embraces at the end as the audience showered them with applause and bravos.

Following the interval, a sterling performance of Antonín Dvořák's Quintet in A-major, op 81 was the crowning glory of the festival: played with boundless generosity by Jon Kimura Parker (piano) and Mssrs. Beilman, Phillips, O'Neill, and Robinson, this music got the audience so revved up that an explosive ovation at the end was the only possible outcome.

It's been a while since Jon Kimura Parker's name was on my radar; how welcome was his playing tonight: plush and opulent. He and cellist Keith Robinson opened the quintet with the heart-filling theme which seems to epitomize the Romantic spirit. Bravo, gentlemen! The music wends on its way - Ben Beilman's high, sweet playing tearing at the heart strings - and as passion builds, the illusion of hearing a much larger ensemble envelops us: huge, sweeping waves of gorgeousness flow over us. Then suddenly everything hones down to the violin - Ben Beilman at his most inspired - and then re-builds to a thrilling finale.

Just when you think you've heard the best, things magically get even better. The Andante con moto found all the players surpassing themselves in terms of both beauty of tone and depth of expression: they simply played their hearts out. Richard O'Neill's viola theme, drenched in melancholy, was a particular marvel.

"I love this pianist!", I scrawled across my Playbill, too mesmerized by his playing to write anything more specific. "Cello!" "Viola!!"...passage after passage of inspired playing. And then the music goes off on a romp. The pianist restores order, and the viola is king as the Andante moves to its conclusion.

It's all been almost too much to take in, and so as the dancing Scherzo starts, a lapse in concentration might be expected. But these guys are too good; never for a moment do they let the level falter - not even for a split second - and so again we are thoroughly engaged. Mr. O'Neill and Mr. Phillips trade phrases with immaculate grace, and then an idyllic interlude provides an unexpected change of pace...and there's a solo cello passage which Mr. Robinson delivered with soulful tenderness. And then the dancing resumes.

After only a momentary pause, the finale is launched: an Allegro with passing lulls along the way. While savoring opportunities for dynamic nuance as they spring up, the players go in for richness of sound and urgency of feeling, carrying us along. A constellation of stars I sketched around Mr. Parker's name on my Playbill smiled back at me when the music ended and the audience burst into applause; everyone stood up and cheered.

Out in the lobby, my friend Claudia Schreier and I had to wait as Richard O'Neill's fans pressed around the amiable violist - looking so dapper in a white dinner jacket - to shake his hand and be photographed with him. It reminded me of the old days at the 'New' Met where we waited for Tebaldi and Corelli to sign, just enjoying being in the presence of their greatness. All of tonight's musicians were being lionized, and it was all so well-deserved.

Now is a good time to express a hope that these CMS Summer Evenings might add a fourth performance next season. The audience is clearly there for them, the music's to die for, and the playing is simply beyond belief.

Philip Gardner (Jul 14th, 2016)

The Unmututal Blogspot

Finding Beauty in Ephemera: Views and reviews of over-looked and under-appreciated culture and creativity
The Way Things Go for O'Connor and Kampmeier

For flutist Tara Helen O'Connor, "The Way Things Go" is a labor of love. As she explains in the liner notes, she and pianist Margaret Kampmeier have taken several years to record the selections on this release.

Five of the works were commissioned by O'Connor,the rest were compositions by the duo's favorite composers. Perhaps because of its origins, "The Way Things Go" is an extraordinary release.

The works vary greatly in style, reflecting the many different directions contemporary music is taking. The oldest work on the disc, "Crystal Shadows" by Steven Mackay dates from 1985. While the duo gives the work an assured, authoritative performance, the disjointed nature of the music sound a little dated to me. I'd describe it as a variety of academic atonality.

Much more interesting are the composers who've incorporated popular idioms into their music. Randall Woolf's "Righteous Babe" from 2000 just flat out rocks, and makes a terrific opening for the program. "Gaze" (an O'Connor commission) by John Halle has some jazz-infused gestures and a great modern rag that O'Connor delivers with a smokey, sinuous sound.

Other standouts on the release include "Share" by Belinda Reynolds, whose subtly-crafted themes develop over a repeating ground. I also enjoyed the title track, "The Way Things Go" by Richard Festinger, another O'Connor commission. This ultra-chromatic modernist work has a series of dramatic starts and stops, yet always moves inexorably towards its climaxes. The piece is a technical challenge for both performers, and O'Connor and Kampmeier own it.

To my ears, the most technically challenging work is the one that ends the program: Laura Kaminsky's "Duo for Flute and Piano." The work is somewhat conservative in structure, but don't be fooled. "Duo" was commissioned by and dedicated to the duo, and the music seems to fit them like a glove.

I was surprised to read that album took years to record. The sound and the playing is so consistent I would have guess sessions spanning a few days rather than years. O'Connor and Kampmeier make a great team, and their long association gives these works a dynamic and chemistry that just makes them all the more effective musically.

The Way Things Go
Tara Helen O'Connor, flute; Margaret Kampmeier, piano
Righteous Babe: Randall Woolf; Crystal Shadows: Steven Mackey; Gaze: John Halle; All Sensation is Already Memory: Eric Moe; Share: Belinda Reynolds; The Way things Go: Richard Festinger; Duo for Flute and Piano: Laura Kaminsky
Bridge Records 9467

Ralph Graves (Jul 14th, 2016)

Art Mag

Spoleto 2016 Review

Nuttall recruits the top talent in chamber music to play the Spoleto series and unabashedly surrounds himself with musicians he claims are much more talented than he–although we're inclined to believe that he is one of the very best violinists around. So often, these virtuosos will be made up of husband and wife duos, like Nuttall and his own wife, violinist Livia Sohn, who is as masterful as she is beguiling. Tara Helen O'Connor is an superior flutist whose husband Daniel Phillips "bats both ways," as Nuttall joked–meaning only that he plays both the violin and viola with extraordinary skill.

Program VII opened with the "Gypsy Sonata" by George Phillipp Telemann (1681-1767), whose legacy has not been well remembered, for no good reason at all Nuttall muses. Telemann's contemporaries and close friends Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederic Handel seem to get all the attention, while one could "select any of Telemann's compositions at random and it would be pretty good."The "Gypsy Sonata" most closely follows my definition of chamber music, due in large part to the presence of the harpsichord, brilliantly played by Pedja Muzijevic. Christopher Costanza fills out the bass line on cello, adding a richness to the sound that creates vibrant colors where it would have been a little pale otherwise. Phillips is soulful and profound on the violin, but it is Tara Helen O'Connor who shines with shimmering, lilting notes, and an enchanting sound. O'Connor has incredible breath control that never once compromises the integrity of the piece and shows what an excellent musician she is. She so embodies perfection on the flute that you'll forget she is human and therefore obliged to breath at regular intervals for survival. It was very difficult not to stand and clap with gusto for her playing after the second movement came to a close.

Stacy Huggins (Jun 7th, 2016)

The Post and Courier

Chamber Duo wows audience

... For Godard's "Suite de Trois Morceaux" he was joined on stage (Charles Wadsworth) by flautist Tara O'Connor. And what a combination it was! With Wadsworth at the piano and O'Connor on the flute it was bound to be a winning combination. O'Connor's range of expression and dexterity are extraordinary and the piece was a stunner. The suite is actually three pieces played with ease by both performers. In contrast to it, the second piece was a lyric symphony of sound full of O'Connor's rich voice on the flute. The final section had so many fast notes for the flute that Wadsworth hinted that it gave him a headache. O'Connor whipped all those notes out with great ease and made the whole thing seem like a piece of cake. This was definitely easy-listening music. The audience loved it, calling both performers back for several curtain calls.

Mary Solomon (Jun 8th, 2015)

The Post and Courier

Concert features sounds you are fortunate to hear live

Mozart at 21 was writing music at a slightly different level. His D major flute quartet (K. 285) saying and sort through three movements with Tara Helen O'Connor's glorious instrument leading the string trio, producing sounds you can hardly believe you are fortunate enough to be hearing live. Bright tunes follow the slow, smooth flute solo over pizzicato strings that can bring smiles and tears in the same moment.

Carol Furtwangler (May 28th, 2009)

Tryon Daily Bulletin

O’Connor and Denk - Playing with fire

...The fuel never runs out. She (Tara O'Connor) plays an instrument that is her voice...

O'Connor, a Disciplined Daredevil for sure, chose a program that kept everyone in the hall alertly tuned in. The stunning "Sonata 'Undine' in E minor" Op. 167 from the several hundred works of German born composer Carl Reinecke, took us underwater. The mermaid Undine did indeed unite with a mortal man (and presumably obtained her immortal soul) and then had a stormy Life on Land with the mortal man. He died. She grieved. She returned to the sea and grieved some more...

The performance of J.S. Bach's "Sonata in B minor" (BWV 1030) was joyful from start to finish. The compositional intricacies were thoroughly relished and cleanly revealed. Having locked Elaine Shaffer's tempi into my brain when I was eleven years old, I never adjusted to O'Connor's breathtakingly fast Andante...

"Shubert's "Introduction and Variations on Trockne Blumen" (from his own song cycle "Die Schine Mullerin") gives flutists a major work from the almost fluteless 19th century. The Introduction was, for me, the most beautiful passage of the evening. It was the first chance I'd had to concentrate on O'Connor's actual sound. Long notes began so gently and swelled so fully and so tastefully that I wouldn't have traded any part of it for a vocalist rendition...

...More amazing than the speed of their fingers (and the fact that O'Connor never seemed to breathe) was the speed of their (O'Connor and Denk) brains. (In reference to Lowell Liebermann and his Sonata for Flute and Piano Op. 23, II. Presto).

Rita Landrum (Mar 4th, 2009)

The Oregonian

Music review
A furious flute lifts Schubert variations to ironic heights

Tara Helen O'Connor sparks the Chamber Music Northwest concert.

You'd think that flute players would be temperate, unruffled souls, playing the sweet-natured instrument way up there on the high melodic line.

You'd be wrong.

Tara Helen O'Connor is as bold as a boxer. She attacks the music, jabbing it, squeezing it, holding it up by the scruff of its neck. She flits up the scale and ends with a double-arm flourish, her flute raised high overhead. Can you see why she's been so much fun to watch at Chamber Music Northwest for the past decade?

On an all-Schubert program Monday, O'Connor unleashed the equivalent of flute fury on the composer's Introduction and Variations in E minor, a bit of wizardry that winds itself tighter and faster as it goes along. Ostensibly, the piece is based on Schubert's simple, aching song "Trockne Blumen" (Withered-Flowers). The song comes near the end of the great cycle "Die Schone Mullerin", when the once-happy Miller tells his flowers – flowers his former lover gave him – that they must lie in his grave.

In truth, the flute variations blaze with such virtuosic leaps and scales, they bury the original song.

...Then came O'Connor, and we were off the races. I liked her sassiness and ironic smile as the piece grew ever more ridiculous in its convolutions. She earned an ovation at the end.

David Stabler (Jul 2nd, 2008)

The Post and Courier

Chamber program offers varied sounds

At the elegant Memminger auditorium, the eighth Bank of America Spoleto Chamber Music program featured a Vivaldi "Piccolo Concerto," providing a cheery tour de force for flutist Tara Helen O'Connor.

Each of the three movements of VIvaldi's concerto showed off different facets of virtuosa piccolo playing, making the piece a triumph for O'Connor. The first movement featured the highest notes of the piccolo and showcased its ability to do strikingly dramatic bird calls. O'Connor played long dancing phrases over a variety of instruments of combinations. Movement two was a beautiful lyrical section demonstrating the emotional power of the piccolo while the third section featured military melodies done in the best quick march tempo. O'Connor received a standing ovation.

Jeff Johnson (Jun 4th, 2008)

The Post and Courier

Octet by Shubert a mature piece

There was time at the beginning of the program to reassess a work commissioned by Spoleto Festival some 20 years ago, Lowell Liebermann's "Sonata for Flute and Piano."

Veteran festival flutist Tara Helen O'Connor and newcomer pianist Pedja Muzijevic made a strong case for Liebermann's composition.

In this blatantly neo-Romantic work there is a dreamy first movement interrupted by a passionate outburst, followed by a demonic second movement, tarantella-like in its unremitting rhythms.

O'Connor and Muzijevic dished up the whole thing with energy and style.

William D. Gudger (Jun 1st, 2008)

The Post and Courier

Spoleto & 2005 Piccolo
‘Quartet’ captivating, magical

The visionary French composer Olivier Messiaen uses flute and piano to evoke impressionistic images of bird songs ("La Merle Noir" – The Blackbird), but only when played virtuosic musicians.

Flautist Tara Helen O'Connor filled the bill very nicely.

Her breath control is almost unbelievable, double-stopping in trills that seemed as fast as the extremely fast tempi at which birds sing.

Carol Furtwangler (Jun 4th, 2005)

The New York Times

The Arts
Wolpe at 100, Still Full of Ideas and Anger

...Wolpe liked extremes, but he could also settle for less extreme extremes, as in the taut byplay of "Piece in Two Parts" for flute and piano, which was elegantly performed by Tara O'Connor and Mr. Gosling ...

...and Ms. O'Connor, playing with recorded images of herself, quietly and beautifully put us in the presence of Morton Feldman's "Trio for Flutes", a sequence of organlike chords where the real (live) and the imaginary (taped) are inextricably interwoven, music with nothing to prove, and haunting.

Paul Griffiths (Oct 15th, 2002)

The Star-Ledger

Chamber program is mostly super

A performance by guest flutist Tara Helen O'Connor was the highlight of Sunday's Mostly Music concert

...Bach's trio sonata in C major (BWV 1037), which featured (Tara Helen) O'Connor, (Carter) Brey and (Daniel) Phillips.... The musicians had to breathe together and feel an emphatic connection of tempo, decorative instinct, and phrasing in their minds. It worked, though, with O'Connor and her exquisite, silvery phrasing the virtuoso highlight...

...Phillips, when his part intertwined with O'Connor, seemed to shrink his tone to a similary, airy band...

...So much can go wrong with Bach, one uninspired soloist able to derail the entire train; that this performance felt so liquid is a testament to the intelligence and acumen of these players.

Willa J. Conrad (Jan 30th, 2001)

The Post and Courier

Fooling Around with the flute

The next-to-last Chamber Music program began on Friday with a famous popular, tumultuous and sparkling workout for the flute-friendly musicians' assistants as can be collected. The work glowing behind all those adjectives is Johan Sebastian Bach's second Orchestral Suite (BWV 1067)... that has been a showpiece for flutists since flute players were around. On Friday, the flutist was the wonderful Tara Helen O'Connor, who played the piece to a standstill, and her co-workers were violinists Daniel Phillips and Chee-Yun, cellist Andres Diaz, violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama and Charles Barr (Double Bass)...

Robert Jones (Jun 11th, 2000)

The State

Arts & Entertainment
Spoleto 2000: Hits, misses and no-shows: Thoughts on the 24th festival

Hits: Dock Street Theater Chamber Music concerts: ... Outstanding performances include Budd in Schubert's: "Die Hurt auf dem Felsen", flutist Tara Helen O'Connor in George Crumb's "Voice of the Whale" and everybody in the Mendelssohn "Octet."

William Starr (Jun 11th, 2000)

The Post and Courier

Musicians deliver superb Chamber Music concert

(B-minor suite BWV 1067 by J.S. Bach)...opened in a good-natured reading which was stitched closely together with exacting phrasing, firmly tempered precision in articulation and occasional ensemble moments that only could be called sublime.

Slow, double-dotted rhythms in the first-movement Grave soon gave away to a brisk fugato, with soloist Tara Helen O'Connor leading the way authoritatively...

A Rondo and a slow Saraband balanced unison flute-violin passages against middle string gestures and a roc- solid basso continuo foundation. The catchy Bourree and stately theme-and-variations interest of the Polonaisse preceded a deftly-turned Minuet. But O'Connor fairly exploded into the two-fisted technical challenges of the final Allegro, taken at a blistering tempo with brief solo material distributed all around. The movement as a whole certainly served to the center audience interest for the remaining two-thirds of the program.

Jack Dressler (Jun 10th, 2000)

The Post and Courier

Flutist plays fifth time at Spoleto

As a young girl of 11 or 12, Tara Helen O'Connor was among the hundreds of students at her school who took a test for band. O'Connor had spent hours playing in her Long island back yard, listening to the sound of a neighbor playing flute. So she gave it a try.

"I loved it right away", said O'Connor, a veteran flutist who has become a figure in Spoleto's Chamber Music Series at the Dock Street Theatre.

Yet, when she turned 17 and faced decisions about college, O'Connor wasn't sure what to do. She applied to the traditional colleges with thoughts of perhaps pursuing a law degree.

Then one day, she heard the Long Island Philharmonic rehearse at her school. Internationally known flutist Paula Robinson gave a master class and O'Connor had the chance to play for her.

Robinson urged the teen to dedicate herself to the flute. She said: "Well, you have to do this". O'Connor said: "In the end, she was right. I couldn't imagine doing anything else".

It was too late to apply to a music school. But in time, O'Connor earned a doctorate from SUNY Stony Brook and studied under the late flutist Sam Baron through three degrees.

Although, she had limited contact with Robinson, a long time Spoleto USA player, O'Connor calls her "one of my heroes".

O'Connor a Manhattan resident, has become a Spoleto veteran herself now in her fifth year.

She is single-minded about who gets credit for her appearances at the festival: Spoleto pillar Charles Wadsworth, artistic director for chamber music and host of the series.
"He is the mastermind. He's the main reason people come".

"He's opened so many doors for me" she said. "I am grateful every minute for him".

Next year, she plans to do a tour Wadsworth is organizing.

But O'Connor, said there are few places she would rather perform for three weeks than Charleston.

"It's such an amazing place to be", she said. "I love Charleston. There's so much music and art in one concentrate area".

She said she feels energized to be in one place working intensely for three weeks without the distractions of being at home or traveling every couple of days.

"You're in one place working very hard – you can be very concentrated", she said.

The Chamber Music Series spans 33 performances of 11 programs. The musicians often have just a couple of days to rehearse major pieces.

O'Connor will play in five of the series concerts. She already performed twice in Concert I, playing in Saint-Saens "Caprice on Danish Russian Air" and "Arnes's The Morning Cantata".

But she has plenty more ahead, including her third performance of Bach's" Brandenburg Concerto number 4" today.

At the Bach's performances, she will play with husband Daniel Phillips, the violin soloist in the Brandenburg performance today.

She said the first time they played together she was 22.

"We were totally, completely sync" she said.

But they were dating other people and moved on. Nearly a decade would pass before they went on their first date. Today they live hectic lives and build sky-high cellphone bills.

"We don't even have a dog" she laughed.

O'Connor recently received a permanent, part-time teaching position at Purchase College.

Conservatory of Music at SUNY Purchase, where she had been an adjunct professor. She will have nine students to follow and develop while still having enough time to perform.

"It's excellent to be performing and teaching" she said. "By teaching, you learn a lot about your own playing".

But teaching won't curtail her traveling to perform, especially since many of her favorites are summer festivals.

Along with Spoleto, her regular stops included Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Orpheus, Barge Music, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and Music from Angel Fire. She made her concert to debut last summer at the Mostly Mozart Festival.

O'Connor is a founding member of the 1995 Naumburg Award winning New Millennium ensemble and is flute soloist of the Bach Aria Group. She was the first wind player chosen to take part in the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's Chamber Music Society Two program for young artists.

"I can't believe how lucky I am. I love what I do", she said.

Jennifer Berry Hawes (Jun 1st, 2000)

The Boston Phoenix

Strings attached

If PHOENIX RISING is Musgrave's "Russian" piece, the weekend before, Susan Davenny Wyner, flute virtuosa Tara Helen O'Connor and the New England String Ensemble gave a glowing performance with Musgrave in attendance, of a more "French" piece, the mythic narrative Orfeo II, and "improvisation on a theme". Behind the diaphanous orchestration are not-so-buried echoes of the great lament ("Che faro senz'Euridice ") and the "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" Musgrave admitted to the audience beforehand that she had "pinched" from Gluck.

In Phoenix Rising, Musgrave – who's best known as an opera composer- actually stages the action: the horn begins off stage then enters; the percussion begins on stage and finally leaves. In Orfeo II, the flute player also makes dramatic gestures. O'Connor suddenly dropped her head, for example, at the loss of Eurydice Musgrave was obviously delighted with both Wyner and Andrew Davis for bringing her music so vividly to life.

Lloyd Schwartz (Dec 16th, 1999)

The Boston Globe

Music review
Wyner draws beauty, passion from NE String Ensemble

... the piece (Orfeo II, an improvisation on a theme for flute and strings) provides plenty of virtuoso opportunities for the solo flutist who impersonates Orfeo. Tara Helen O'Connor negotiated the dizzying scales passages, multiplicity of at lacks and dramatic demands with panache, but also showed herself a committed ensemble partner.

Ellen Pfeifer (Nov 23rd, 1999)

The Oregonian

Music Review
Flutist makes a noteworthy debut

Who is Tara Helen O'Connor, and where has she been hiding all this time?

O'Connor made her flute debut at Chamber Music Northwest on Thursday, and knocked the shoes and socks off André Jolivet's "Chant de Linos."

The caliber and camaraderie of musicians at Chamber Music Northwest can intimidate newcomers, but O'Connor proved her worth the minute she put mouth to metal.

With a tone as big as Utah, she whipped through the scales and vertiginous leaps of Jolivet's earthy, resourceful music. Her footing was sure, her rhythmic command bold.

A supporting cast of Cho-Liang Lin, violin, Paul Neubauer, viola, Hamilton Cheifetz, cello and Nancy Allen, harp, supported this fine addition to the festival's family.

It turns out that O'Connor teaches at Purchase College Conservatory of Music in New York State, and has performed at Spoleto U.S.A., Barge Music and Santa Fe festivals.

She plays just once more, on July 19 (repeating July 20) in Arnold Schoenberg's moonstruck monodrama "Pierrot Lunaire." Go.

David Stabler (Sep 12th, 1999)

The Morning Call

Concert Review
Soloists delineate Bach cantatas for the Chamber Music Society

... Tenor David Britton had the misfortune to be overmatched with the dazzling flute of Tara Helen O'Connor in his Aria from Cantata 113, but came into his own later on."

W.J. Fenza (Oct 17th, 1998)

The New York Times

Music review
Stravinsky and Schoenberg: A Gulf

The voices of the five instruments were also virtuoso and full of character, contributing to a performance of richness and power. (...). The Violinist Ida Kavafian and the cellist Peter Willey were particularly good in conveying the glistening harmonics, and their contrapuntal interplays with the flutist Tara Helen O'Connor and the clarinetist David Shifrin went like mad clockwork.

... Ms. O'Connor gave a marvelous performance of Debussy's solo flute piece "Syrinx", bending the odd note aptly and bringing out the final allusion to "L'Apres-Midi d'un Faune".

Paul Griffiths (Jan 16th, 1998)

The Ithaca Times

Baton Waiver

...while O'Connor's flute tone is plush and very cushiony. It was O'Connor's tone which usually dominated in the first movement. They both (violin: Linda Case and Tara O'Connor) proved themselves to be very sensitive listeners in the second movement, where their use of ornamentations was perfectly coordinated.

O'Connor returned after intermission as soloist in the "Flute Concerto in D minor" by C.P.E Bach. This fascinating work is like encapsulated history of mid-18th Century music, the first movement picking up late-baroque trends of the 1740's, the second movement the emerging rococo of the 1750's, and the finale lashing out with typical 1760's Sturm und Drang.

Tara Helen O'Connor was the only one of Saturday's soloists who played a visibly active role in conducting the orchestra. O'Connor found that a flute does not make as handy a baton as a violin bow, and chose instead to make rough hand and arm motions to the orchestra when not playing, all the while facing the audience. In this she resembled the go-go dancers from two centuries after the piece was written, but the visual stimulus had its effects.

Her flute playing has an intensity of its own. One doesn't think of the flute as a powerful instrument, but it was powerful here, as if the "cushion" of overtones one heard in her sound was translated into muscle, not flab. The cascades of tongued 16th notes in the final were stunningly executed.

Mark G. Simon (Sep 25th, 1997)

The Ithaca Journal

Arts & Entertainment
CCO breathes life into Baroque war horses

...Tara Helen O'Connor was a strong presence from the start, making the phrases into living entities with clear beginnings and endings, varying lengths, and the emphases and cadences of speech. Her sound was pure but hard character, and she used vibrato as an intensifier, not an annoying constant presence. The three soloists, O'Connor on flute, Linda Case on violin and Alan Giambattista on harpsichord played together with wonderful agreement and sympathy...

... Flute soloist O'Connor certainly made as vivid a case for this piece as could possibly be made (in reference to the concerto for flute and orchestra by C.P.E Bach). At first, her tempo in the first movement seemed unduly hasty, always pushing the orchestra and hurtling on the next phrase, but it grew on one. I am not sure the piece could have sustained a more deliberate, measured approach. She was never perfunctory or merely virtuosic (though the last movement was a jaw dropping tour de force of virtuosity). Her playing had shape and flexibility and radiated delight.

Wendy Maraniss (Sep 22nd, 1997)