Charleston Paper - Concert & Choral

Spoleto 2019
Chamber Music delights: A midday nibble of classical non-pretense is a perennial favorite, and for good reason

Ducking out of the midday heat into the enchanted air-conditioned balm of the Dock Street Theatre is true decadence. The space itself — a small jewel box of Old World gleam — is delightfully intimate and inviting, a space somehow imbued with an ambiance of expectation, regardless of what type of performance I attend there. This seems especially true when it's a Spoleto Festival USA chamber music program. Even for someone like me whose classical repertoire is lean at best.

Attending a Spoleto chamber music offering is akin to venturing into a small gallery of thoughtfully curated art. Or sitting down to the tasting menu at a choice restaurant like Zero Restaurant + Bar, where flavors and presentation are exquisitely layered and expertly executed, and you just sit back and let the culinary maestro do his thing. Following this analogy, Geoff Nuttall is the Vinson Petrillo of classical music, an artist at the height of his game, a musician whose indisputable gift is making his otherworldly talent accessible to normal humans who don't know a bass note from a clef. a_2_.jpg

In short, Nutall dishes up complex compositions and balanced flavors that are boldly adventuresome yet approachable. And delicious. The brilliance of the chamber music programs is that they are bite-sized nuggets. You leave feeling delightfully well fed but never overstuffed.

Case in point, program five of this year's 11-program menu. Nuttall bounds onto the stage with boyish exuberance. With vamping flair, he announces that he's sporting a brand new three-piece suit in honor of this particular program, so excited is he about the music and musicians.

Nuttall's enthusiasm is like a jaunty tune you can't help but hum along to. First up was a cello quartet featuring composer-in-residence Paul Wiancko, Joshua Roman, Christopher Costanza, and Nina Lee playing the heck out of Wiancko's "When the Night"—a number full of tonal variation and sounds I've never heard from a cello before, including percussive bow beats.

Next was a Bach Sonata rendered with precision and passion by chamber music series veterans Tara Helen O'Connor on flute and Steven Prutsman on keyboard. Their interplay was exquisite — a bit like watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and the romantic concerto a perfect vehicle for their talents.

Stephanie Hunt (Jun 4th, 2019)

The Post and Currier

Spoleto chamber music series has perennial appeal, thanks to variety

Spoleto Festival's chamber music variety show at the Dock Street Theatre mostly packs in patrons of a certain demographic: financially secure people, age 50-80, who can trace their ancestry to Europe and who grew up with the idea that classical music is an important art form.

What they get inside the theater is unpretentious confirmation. Host Geoff Nuttall describes classical music, in its myriad forms, as something not at all sacred or grandiose but, rather, perfectly comprehensible and accessible to any willing listener, even in its contemporary guises.

The chamber music programming is a big mix of styles and eras, and every recital includes appealing works that provoke an enthusiastic audience response. Sometimes these programs strike me as a series of bonbons, without enough meat and potatoes, and I long for something big and bold and — dare I say it? — traditional, such as a Brahms piano quintet or an old-fashioned Beethoven string quartet.

Sometimes I am delighted to discover that a new work, such as composer-in-residence Paul Wiancko's stunning "When the Night" for Cello Quartet, satisfies that desire. It might not be a work that's yet part of the canon, but it has the heft and grace that the canon calls for.

Wiancko, a Brooklyn-based California native, is as adept with his cello and bow as he is with his manuscript paper and composer's pen, and he often performs in chamber music settings. He was one of the four cellists who played "When the Night," joining Joshua Roman, Christopher Costanza and Nina Lee for the work based loosely on the opening phrase of "Stand by Me."

It easily could have become sugar-coated or deferential to the pop song. Instead, Wiancko created mere musical allusions that never disrupted the flow of appealing phrases and gestures, warm tonality and swings between meditative passages and energetic flurries of sound.

And what would a good cello quartet be without a pizzicato section? It came at the end of "When the Night" and was contagious. Wiancko even threw in an al legno passage, where the players strike the strings with the wood of the bows, to create a percussive quality.

It was a refreshing reminder that great classical music indeed remains an important art form. It came as a kind of relief.

The cello quartet opened Program 5, which also featured pianist Stephen Prutsman (in his last appearance this year) and flutist Tara Helen O'Connor performing a Bach sonata, plus a Vivaldi concerto for two solo cellos and continuo (which included theorbo, a large lute-like instrument), and violinist Karen Gomyo (making her Spoleto Festival chamber music series debut) blowing the roof off the Dock Street Theatre with her rendition of Pablo de Sarasate's "Carmen Fantasy."

The interplay between O'Connor and Prutsman — the expressive dynamics, careful phrasing and intricate dialogue they achieved — was riveting.

Adam Parker (Jun 2nd, 2019)

Oregon Arts Watch - Oregon Art's and Culture News

Andy Akiho: systems within systems

Composer and steely pan virtuoso brings the heat at Chamber Music Northwest, and tells ArtsWatch where the fire comes from

In the midst of a five-week music festival, a weird mid-week show starring composer-performer Andy Akiho felt like a village gathering. Akiho's music, after all, is geared towards pretty specific tastes: challengingly colorful modern classical music, complex rhythmic grooviness and modern sonorities, rooted in jazz and pop and rock and hip hop, all played on steelpan and other percussions together with flute and strings. Everyone in the mostly full Alberta Rose Theater audience that Wednesday was either already an Akiho fan or about to become one.

CMNW executive director Peter Bilotta introduced the concert by jokingly insinuating that Akiho may have been indirectly responsible for last winter's notorious CMNW office fire. "I picked up eleven copies of his new CD in January when it came out, and there they sat, on my desk in our office, where they burned up. We don't know what caused the fire: maybe it was mechanical, maybe it was arson, or maybe the CD is just that hot!"

Cool Duos

Akiho himself lurked quietly off-stage, quivering with athletic energy like a young Robert DeNiro, as the show opened with flute goddess Tara Helen O'Connor and Akiho champion Ian Rosenbaum premiering a new arrangement of -intuition) (Expectation, originally composed in 2012 for trumpet and marimba. O'Connor excels at this stuff, and it was wonderful to hear her amplified: flutter-tongued polymetric riffage, breathy backbeats, and crazy wide-registered arpeggiations popped out around the theater, sizzling about over Rosenbaum's quick quintuplets.

Matthew Andrews (Sep 17th, 2018)

The Free Press

Bay Chamber Offers “Enlightenment” via Flute and Strings

Bay Chamber Concerts continues its 58th Summer Concert Series on Thursday, July 26, at 7:30 p.m. at Rockport Opera House with "Enlightenment," featuring works by Mozart, Purcell and Haydn, as well as Andrew Norman's "Light Screens," inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's stained glass window designs.

Virtuoso flutist Tara Helen O'Connor, a two-time Grammy nominee and recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant, will be joined by Bay Chamber favorites Geoff Nuttall and Livia Sohn, violins; Nathan Schram, viola; and Christopher Costanza, cello. Performing on piano will be Manuel Bagorro, artistic director of Bay Chamber Concerts.

Before the concert, Bowdoin College music professor Anthony Antolini will give a free talk from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Recital Hall of nearby Bay Chamber Music School. His pre-concert talks this summer will cover the repertoire to be presented at each Thursday-night concert in Rockport Opera House.

On Friday, July 27, at 8:30 p.m. at Union Hall in Rockport, Bay Chamber presents its Café Nights Series in a program entitled "Flute and Strings." The musicians from Thursday's concert will return for a one-hour program of classical pieces including works by Haydn and Beethoven and a contemporary solo flute work by Ian Clarke called "Zoom Tube."

Tickets for Thursday's performance are $60 for adults and Friday's are $35. Tickets for those under age 25 are $10 for either show. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 236-2823.

(Jul 26th, 2018)

Village Soup • Knox

Courier Publications
Bay Chamber: world-class flute, enlightening music

ROCKPORT — Bay Chamber Concerts continues its 58th Summer Concert Series Thursday, July 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House, 6 Central St. The Enlightenment program affords an opportunity to hear one of the country's greatest flute players, Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient and two-time Grammy nominee Tara Helen O'Connor.

Joining O'Connor are Bay Chamber favorites Geoff Nuttall and Livia Sohn, violin; Nathan Schram, viola; Christopher Costanza, cello; and, on piano, Artistic Director Manuel Bagorro. The program has works by Mozart, Purcell and Haydn plus Andrew Norman's "Light Screens," inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's stained glass window designs. In advance of the Thursday evening concert, Bowdoin College music professor Anthony Antolini will present a free pre-concert talk from 6 to 7 p.m. in the nearby Recital Hall of the Bay Chamber Music School.

On Friday, July 27, Bay Chamber will present as Café Nights Series program titled Flute and Strings at 8:30 p.m. in Union Hall, 24 Central St. The prestigious musicians return for this one-hour program of classical delights including works by Haydn and Beethoven; and "Zoom Tube," a virtuosic solo flute contemporary work by Ian Clarke.

Tickets for Thursday's concert are $60, $10 for those younger than 25; for Friday's, $35/$10. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call the Box Office at 236-2823.

Courier Publications' A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or

Dagney C. Ernest (Jul 20th, 2018)

Oberon's Grove

Flute Affair @ Chamber Music Society

In a well-conceived program of works composed in four different centuries, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center presented two of today's foremost flautists - Tara Helen O'Connor and Ransom Wilson - joined by an ensemble of top-flight artists. The ink's probably not totally dry yet on John Luther Adams' newest score, a CMS co-commission having its New York premiere this evening.

Music of Bach opened the concert: his Trio Sonata in G-major for two flutes and continuo was given an elegant performance by Ms. O'Connor and Mr. Wilson, with cellist Timothy Eddy and Juho Pohjonen at the harpsichord providing a gracious continuo. The sound of blending flutes has an enchantment that few other instruments playing in duo can evoke. The sonata's Adagio e piano has an air of sweet melancholy, and in the propulsive rhythmic figures of the two Allegro sections, Mr. Eddy made music that went beyond keeping time.

For Mozart's C-major flute quartet, K 285b, Ms. O'Connor was joined by violinist Kristin Lee, violist Paul Neubauer, and cellist Timothy Eddy. In this two-movement work, the composer keeps the flute prominent but doesn't neglect the other instruments. Rising from the gentle flow of the opening Allegro, Ms. O'Connor's quicksilver fluting sends a melodic line over to Ms. Lee's violin. The strings provide a rich yet cultivated blend. We then head into the second movement: a theme-and-variations setting. The theme feels like a courtly dance; in the first variation the flute sings over gently rocking strings. Ms. Lee shines in the second variation and Mr. Eddy in the third, where the Neubauer viola injects an insinuating little phrase that's so delicious. The fourth variation takes a minor-key turn, with a sighing quality. Flute-song is the attractive essence of the fifth variation: Ms. O'Connor's playing is soft and sweet. The sprightly closing variation is in spirit of the country dance known as the Ländler. It's a short dance, but full of charm.

The new Adams was up next: 'there is no one, not even the wind' proved to be both intriguing and a bit problematic. The stage had been set for the work's large ensemble, which includes our two flautists - Ms.O'Connor now playing alto flute - two percussionists (the excellent Ayano Kataoka and Ian David Rosenbaum, with a marimba for each...and a bass drum as well), piano (Mr. Pohjonen), violin (Ms. Lee), viola (Mr. Neubauer), cello (Mr. Eddy), and bass Anthony Manzo.

The music begins delicately with the striking of individual bell tones. Ms. Lee's violin enters on high; slowly, the other voices of the ensemble are mixed in: we seem to be floating thru space and time. Piercing flute notes from Mr. Wilson seem like signals from distant worlds; meanwhile Ms. O'Connor's alto flute evokes ancient realms on Earth. Notes struck on the marimbas linger on the air, enveloping us in mystery.The bass drum sounds like distant thunder, with deep piano tones adding to an ominous feeling. The flutes resume; the music transcends reality as sound-clouds move across the horizon of the mind.

The music is marvelously crafted and - needless to say - magically played. But there's simply too much of it: even the most poetic dream can outlast itself. An annoying cougher infringed on the atmosphere, and a sense of restlessness began to intrude. Much as I loved the sounds I was hearing, I began to wonder if we had been adrift too long. And yet, I could definitely listen to this work again - preferably at home, where the imagination could be allowed full play.

During the interval, there was considerable buzz about the Adams work: from what I could gather, people around us found it essentially fascinating but too extended.

Henri Dutilleux passed away in 2013 at the age of 97. His Sonatine for flute and piano was commissioned by the Paris Conservatory as a test piece for the graduating flautists of 1942; tonight, Ransom Wilson and Juho Pohjonen turned it into ten minutes of magic.

The Sonatine begins mysteriously, the piano soon entwined with the flute. The music is very "French" with lingerings in the upper range and twisty rising scales. A bird-song cadenza shows off Mr. Wilson's fluency of technique; this leads to a lyrical developmental section. There's a full stop, and then rippling figurations from the piano draw us into music that's light, bright, and subtly ironic. The piano writing turns grand before another cadenza - this one heading downhill - carries us on to a witty speed-up to the end. The audience gave the players - and the piece - a warm reception. I'm going to tell some of my choreographer-friends about it.

We bounced back to the second decade of the 19th century for the evening's final work: the Septet in D-minor by Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Dating from 1816, this septet sounds rather ahead of its time, thanks to the composer's ideas about instrumentation, harmony, and modulation. It's a piece that brings the listener a sense of elation in both its musical freshness and its inspired instrumentation: Hummel calls for a trio of strings and a trio of winds, and he sets them off brilliantly against writing for the piano that calls for great virtuosity and sensitivity.

Within moments of the start of the Hummel, the audience could grasp the fact that the man at the Steinway, Juho Pohjonen (above), was playing with extraordinary dexterity, feeling, and commitment. He wasn't just playing the notes, but investing them with colour and nuance - one could often sense a full dynamic range within a single passage; and how fine were Mr. Pohjonen's taperings of the many scale phrases to keep us under his spell. When the septet ended, his colleagues urged the pianist to step forward where he was greeted by a barrage of bravos. Called back to the stage, the players sent Mr. Pohjonen out first, then they all held back so that he had a solo bow. It was one of my favorite moments from among the many evenings I've spent at Alice Tully Hall.

The Hummel is simply bursting with great opportunities for each of the seven players to show what they can do. After a full-bodied start, hesitations creep in. Mr. Manzo's bass makes the first of numerous incursions with rich, rhythmic sound. Mr. Neubauer's viola pulses as the three wind players comment. Meanwhile, the piano writing is a joy to hear as Mr. Pohjonen veers from extroverted to delicate in the twinkling of an eye. He can be pensive at one moment and wryly light-hearted the next. Before the first movement ends, Mr. Eddy's cello has its say.

"It's a piano thing!", I wrote as the second movement commenced: it's cleverly marked Menuetto o scherzo by the composer, and the bass gets us involved before the piano again draws our attention. Cello and viola meld with smooth sounds from Eric Reed's horn; Mr. Reed repeatedly sustains notes which lead into melodic motifs.

In the Andante cantabile, a melody gets passed about with variations. Mr. Pohjonen dazzles us yet again, later adopting a 'toy piano' sound for some fanciful coloratura. A slow-rising tutti sends the piano swirling; the bass lures us to a fun finish.

The forward impetus of the concluding Vivace brings us to a conversation between the Neubauer viola and James Austin Smith's congenial oboe; Mr. Eddy has a heartfelt cello passage with piano, and then Ms. O'Connor's flute blends beautifully with the oboe and horn as Mr. Pohjonen's playing is honed down to a thread. Cascades of notes from the keyboard underscore the final measures of this fantastic piece.

Oberon (Nov 19th, 2017)

New York Classical Review

Posted in Performances
Chamber Music Society closes season with simple homegrown pleasures

What is America, exactly?

That was the question asked Sunday afternoon by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in their season ending concert, "America!" As CMS co-artistic director Wu Han pointed out during her introduction, the program was put together two years ago, and the title came afterword.

Still, it's a question worth thinking about even if it's insoluble, and the concert went some distance in exploring it through positive and negative examples. This was all music from American composers, though not all the music was "all-American."

Truly American art music, national in values if not necessarily sound, began with Charles Ives, and all this music came after him: Samuel Barber's Souvenirs, the Red Violin Caprices by John Corigliano, John Harbison's Songs America Loves to Sing, William Bolcom's string quartet arrangements of three of his rags, and the chamber version of Copland's Appalachian Spring Suite.

Appalachian Spring, coming last, is a certified classic and one of the most significant works of American musical art—so much so that the very sound of it has been intrinsic to creating a clearly nationalist music.

Copland choose to create a kind of Americana. One of the beneficial paradoxes of being an American artist, though, is that one is free of the constraints of blood and language and thus free to pick and choose from any and all traditions— as, in their own ways, did Lou Harrison (music from the Pacific) and Harry Partch (ancient Greece).

Barber's choice was American, but of a particular time and class. In general he looked over the Atlantic, back to Europe, something like the Henry James of composers. The piano four-hands Souvenirs looks back in time to an America before the advent of mass popular culture; it's made of dance tunes like the "Two Step" and the "Galop."

This is probably Barber's most light-hearted and charming piece, made with typical impeccable craft. Pianists Gilles Vonsattel and Michael Brown played superbly, the opening mark in a concert in which all the performances were at the highest level. There was plenty of energy, which should come easily in parts like the "Scottische," but the grace of the "Pas du deux" was marvelous.

Bella Hristova played the Red Violin Caprices, from the score for the film The Red Violin–music that has nothing to do with America other than Corigliano's citizenship. Made to emulate historical European music, the Caprices are technically dazzling and glib, offering all the instrumental challenges of Bach and Paganini with none of the content. Violinist relish the way they get to use the instrument, but even virtuosic performances like Hristova's can't invent what's not there.

Beginning with Harbison's chamber arrangement of folk songs and hymns, the concert settled satisfyingly into the roots of the best of America. Songs America Loves to Sing is an admirable re-composing and re-contextualizing that keeps the vernacular vocabulary of the originals and puts it into more abstract and objective grammar and syntax, like the dialogue in Deadwood.

Harbison's imagination illuminates alternate and expanded dimensions of meaning in these songs; turning "We Shall Overcome" into a dignified march, and the "Anniversary Song" into something simultaneously dolorous and determined to step into the future. This was a beautiful performance from the musicians, especially Tara Helen O'Connor's shining flute and clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester's mellow chalumeau register, though all clearly cherished the music.

Just as sincere but less successful was the Escher Quartet's playing of Bolcom's arrangements, which included his exquisite Graceful Ghost Rag. The Escher is an excellent quartet and one is used to their superlative performances, but here the approach to the music was too classical, full of arch rhythms and stiff phrases, with no expressive use of tempos. Still their new green instruments, made by a French string maker and painted by a French artist, sounded rich.

Appalachian Spring was gorgeous, deeply captivating from the very first moments. The musicians played sans conductor, and the crisp rhythms were obviously impressive. More so was the unanimity of purpose, the sense of warmth, community, and joy in, yes, simple things. Copland marks the opening of the piece "With simple expression," and never has that absolute clarity and simplicity held such substance and weight of expression and beauty.

George Grella (May 22nd, 2017)

Oberon's Grove

Opening Night Review

The program commenced with a charming performance of Haydn's 'Surprise' symphony, and if the element of surprise in this very familiar work has long since evaporated, there was still a murmur of delight which passed thru the packed house when that 'wake up!' chord sounded. The symphony, a veritable fountain of melodic and rhythmic delights, was played by an ensemble of top-notch musicians: the kind of artists that maintain the Society's impeccable standards.

With Michael Brown's wonderfully attentive and polished playing of the Steinway setting the pace, we could relish the divine piping of Tara Helen O'Connor's flute and a most pleasing mixture of swiftness and sweetness from Erin Keefe's violin. Danbi Um, in a pretty forest-green frock, stood out in a brief mingling of voices with Ms. O'Connor flute - Danbi would have more expansive opportunities in the Palestrina/Mendelssohn combination after the interval. Of the lower voices, Richard O'Neill's dusky viola sound and his deep involvement in the music are always most welcome; and though music stands blocked our view of Mihai Marica, his cello spoke clearly. This assemblage of musicians were as pleasing to watch as to hear, and they set the tone for the evening with their virtuosity and grace.

Lisette Oropesa (Oct 18th, 2016)

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)


Simple Gifts – Chamber pieces of GOTTSCHALK, DVORAK, BARBER, O’CONNOR, COPLAND & FOSTER – The Social Orch. for Ensemble – CMS Live

Simple Gifts – The Chamber Music of Lincoln Center at Shaker Village = GOTTSCHALK: The Union – Concert Paraphrase on National Airs for Piano, Op. 48; DVORAK: Sonatina in G Major for V. and P., Op. 100; BARBER: Souvenirs for Piano Four Hands, Op. 28; O'CONNOR: F.C.'s Jig for Violin and Viola; COPLAND: Appalachian Spring for Ensemble; FOSTER: Sel. from The Social Orch. for Ensemble – Gilles Vonsattel, p. / Arnaud Sussmann, violin/ Wu Han, p. / Paul Neubauer, viola/ David Shifrin, clarinet/ Brook Speltz and David Finckel, cellos/ Kristen Lee, violin/ Peter Kolkay, bassoon/ Tara Helen O'Connor, flute – CMS Live, 75:00 [Distr. by Naxos] (9/16/16) ****:

The series of concerts and collaborations on this disc were assembled (May 2015) at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, for PBS broadcast for "Live from Lincoln Center" production. David Finckel and Wu Han, artistic directors of the Chamber Music Society, also coordinate the Music@Menlo series in Palo Alto, CA, where many of the featured musicians have been wont to appear. The Shaker melody "Simple Gifts" appears in Copland's 1944 ballet Appalachian Spring, so it seems appropriate that the 13 musicians who perform – in fact, debut – the chamber version of the ballet score at the Shaker Village enshrine a moment in history as the music returns to its place of origin.

Gilles Vonsattel raises the patriotic temperature with Louis Moreau Gottschalk's 1862 jingoistic The Union, a truly exhibitionist piece for virtuoso piano, taking off from "The Star Spangled Banner" and then proceeding to become its own fife and drum corps. "Yankee Doodle," a tune that attracted Henri Vieuxtemps as well, assumes Lisztian proportions, utilizing massive block chords. Many us recall that Ivan Davis used to exploit these figures, and Vonsattel has the folks cheering.

Arnaud Sussmann joins Wu Han for the lyric 1893 Sonatina of Antonin Dvorak, well imbibing in us the memory that Dvorak spent time in Spillville, Iowa. The last of Dvorak's chamber works composed during his American sojourn, the piece meant to supply technical and melodic instruction for the composer's children. The Longfellow poem "The Song of Hiawatha" presumably influenced the writing of the lovely Larghetto movement. Simplicity and charm dominate this rendition, and why not? Dvorak liked to think of this work as a "conversation," and its easy fluency of expression guarantees its being quoted long into the future.

Samuel Barber conceived his dance-suite for piano four hands, Souvenirs, 1951-1952. Like Leonard Bernstein's Anniversaries, the Souvenirs tend to light reminiscence character sketches of dance impulses in six movements. The influence of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley remains close. A divertissement modeled after the Palm Court (Hotel Plaza) experience Barber shared affectionately with Charles Turner, the music echoes the sound of pre-Fitzgerald America, c. 1914. Gilles Vonsattel and Wu Han do the honors, solidly punctuating the opening Waltz that soon transforms into easy, brightly-lit sentiment. Some of its swagger suggests Poulenc. The Schottische will remind many of those same "national" efforts by Chopin and Beethoven, except this one ends with fireworks. The Pas de deux seems to harbor balletic aspirations. A lively Two-Step invokes Fred Astaire and Dmitry Shostakovich at the same time. The Hesitation Tango introduces an erotic element into the mix, touched by a color or two from Albeniz. Brassy percussion opens the finale, a Galop much in the French – Poulenc, Chabrier, or Bizet will do – taste. Audience whoops follow the last chord.

A spicy duo follows – Arnaud Sussmann and Paul Neubauer do the honors – Mark O'Connor's F.C.'s Jig for Violin and Viola (1993), based on O'Connor's own Fiddle Concerto. This rousing duet provides the kind of electric ensemble that Mozart and his sister Nannerl would have enjoyed. If Appalachia, the movie Deliverance, and Mozart could join hands, it would look – sound – like this.

The two large-ensemble works – calling for respectively 13 and 14 players – begin with the chamber orchestra version of Copland's Ballet for Martha, essentially a rural celebration of community in the form of a new-barn raising and blessing. Martha Graham chose the title "Appalachian Spring" from a line in Hart Crane. The sheer array and piercing clarity of Copland's musical effects – rhythmic variation, open intervals, modal harmonies, and plastic instrumental timbres – culminates in the 1848 "Simple Gifts" by composer Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr., first introduced this evening by clarinet David Shifrin. Helen O'Connor's flute consistently maintains a striking ambiance in this nuanced, often blissfully intimate rendition. The concert ends with a brief homage to Stephen Foster (1826-1864) in the form of the three festive dances: Village Quadrille No. 1, Jeannie's Own Schottisch, and Village Quadrille No. 4, selections from Foster's The Social Orchestra of 1854. A cross of home-entertainment and village-gala music, they capture Foster's natural affinity for "the people's music." Foster received a flat fee of $150 for his arrangement of 73 melodies – popular, operatic, and symphonic – but these renditions suggest he deserved more.

Gary Lemco (Sep 28th, 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 breathe 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)

New York Classical Review

Posted in Performances
Chamber Music Society opens Baroque month with a feast of solo Bach

One could go to fifty concerts at Alice Tully Hall without ever knowing that the main auditorium houses a full organ. For the vast majority of performances, the back wall of the stage is kept closed, barely hinting that it hides anything that would be of interest to an audience.

Just to walk into the room on Sunday evening for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's "Solo Bach" concert was startling– seeing the majestic instrument looming behind the stage made an almost operatic coup de théâtre. Playing the Prelude and Fugue in D major on Sunday was Paul Jacobs, who re-inaugurated the organ back in 2010 after its restoration.

The instrument doesn't ring quite as much as one might expect in a live hall like Alice Tully, but it has a firm, assertive voice, on the cool side, but never piercing. Jacobs let the organ roar in the Prelude, bellowing forth a mass of color. The fugue that followed was clearly voiced and crisply articulated, enlivened here and there by playful humor—nowhere more than when Jacobs shamelessly sold the false cadences near the end of the prelude. It is always a joy to hear Bach on Bach's instrument.

The program opened with a lovely performance by Tara Helen O'Connor of the Partita in A minor for solo flute. O'Connor played with both clarity and warmth, spinning natural, breathing phrases. She showed delicate but marked metrical freedom, adding gentle tugs on the front of terraced phrases. Long, sequences of rippling scales are difficult to accomplish on a wind instrument, but her approach, finding the natural breaths in the music, made it sound entirely free. O'Connor was right at home in the music's idiom, inhabiting the essence of the light, skipping bounce of the closing Bourrée Anglaise.

Eric C. Simpson (Dec 6th, 2015)

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

When my brother was four or five, I found him sitting calmly on the lawn staring intently into a small paper cup that was inches from his face. As I got closer, I noticed that heat was creating a wavy lens distorting the scene around him. Joining him, I begin watching the peculiar low flame that was consuming the liquid in the cup. It was gasoline! I was transfixed. The wax cup was by them very hot, yet it did not burn until the fuel was almost gone. (do not try this. It's a miracle we still have eyebrows.) 

So there you have it. Tara Helen O'Connor, flutist, and Jeremy Denk, pianist, contain and fuel each other. The fuel almost never runs out. She plays an instrument that is her voice. He plays an instrument that is his voice. They sing as one. And that is all you need to know about chamber music. Tryon concert association presented these amazing performers at Tryon Fine Arts Center on St. Valentine's Day, a good day for passion of any kind.

I'm not wild about flute in spite of having played one for many years. The flute is an unforgiving instrument that must be played by a Disciplined Daredevil. If you are not a D. D., there can be no music, only an embarrassing struggle with high b-flats strung together with lengthly pointillistic arcs of notes sporting so many flags and beams that you're sure the composer is an idiot (or Georges Seurat's brother).

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 in grieved some more . The musical description of these roller coasters within roller coasters require a spectacular piano playing and unflagging concentration. O'Connor and Denk flawlessly dovetailed their beautifully shaped lines. It was a romantic tour de force using all manner of romantic hyperbole.

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 in my brain when I was 11 years old, I never adjusted to O'Connor's breathtakingly fast Andante. Doubting my memory of this led to a two-day dig through of my brothers old rock and roll albums where I found the recording that confirmed the 42 intervening years hadn't altered my internal database. It also confirmed that I much prefer the tempi O'Connor and Denk chose for the remaining two movements.

Schuberts "Introduction and Variations on Trockne Blumen" (from his own song cycle "Die Schone 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's rendition. Denk rushed the opening tempo soon after the statement of the theme began, but nothing either of them did interfered with synchronization of speed and mood. It was a difficult piece admirably performed.

Lowell Liebermann was born in 1961. His "Sonata for Flute and Piano" ( Op. 23) was commissioned by the Spoleto Festival USA was 26 years old. O'Connor and Denk brought this two-movement work to life as if it were the story of their own lives. They loved the quirks and moved through the Lento as if they were twins with a secret. Their fascination with both the piece and the composer was also apparent in their spoken remarks. More amazing than the speed of their fingers (and the fact that O'Connor never seemed to breathe) was the speed of their brains. (We could use some minds like that in Washington.)

That enough energy remained for an encore proved that both O'Connor and Denk are Discipline Daredevils. A Piazzolla dance ended the program in true blaze. The paper cup finally burned. We almost lost our eyebrows.

P. S. Please do not call my mother. She was certain the key to the tool room, where the lawnmower and gas can were stored, was well out of reach. We don't know where he got the matches.

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 Oregonian

Music Review
Flutist O’Connor shows hastiness of Mozart gibe

Top-notch show  The musician, featured in all nine pieces, displays both talent and stamina.

Mozart famously disparaged the flute as "an instrument I cannot bear". But had he been able to hear Tara Helen O'Connor on Monday night at Kaul Auditorium, he likely have reconsidered. When it comes time in early January to review the past year's performances, this one will be unquestionably remembered as among the very best.

In her eighth season with Chamber Music Northwest, O'Connor is a flutist of exceptional abilities, chameleonlike character and uncommon stamina; The last of these was evident just from a glance at the two hour program, which featured her in everyone of the nine pieces. Rarely do even professional wind players have such a workout before an audience, and most people attempting that kind of exertion would be left gasping, if not passed out on the stage, by intermission.

The evening included Mozart's four flute quartets - part of a commission that occasioned his famous complaints about the instrument - interspersed with five mostly shorter work from the past 80 years. Toru Takemitsu's "Air," a captivating solo display redolent of Japanese shakuhachi music, was a fine introduction to O'Connor's talent. Her control was breathtaking (so to speak) as her tone alternated between bright and shadowy, and her always-subtle vibrato changed constantly and almost imperceptibly. Her tone was pure and her intonation spot-on even as she faded to nearly whispering dynamics.

In the Mozart for which she was joined by violinist Daniel Phillips, violist Todd Phillips and cellist Sophie Shao, O'Connor was clear and sparkling, with nimble fingers, liquid legatos, cantabile lyricism and a sense of irrepressible forward motion throughout. The players made no attempt to add undue weight to the pieces, which apart from the concertolike qualities of the D Major Quartet are light and small in scale, but with attentiveness and fine ensemble, they bought gracious life to these fine examples of the rococo.

Clarinetist David Shifrin joined her for three pieces, including a movement from a work in progress by Joan Tower (to be premiered by CMNW in 2008) "Esprit rude/ Esprit doux II" by Elliott Carter and "Chôros 2" by Heitor Villa-Lobos (percussionist Niel DePonte joined them on marimba in the Carter). In three very different ways, each explored the felicitous contrast of timbers between flute and clarinet; the Tower elicited delighted reaction from the audience as the two were fused in perfect unison at the end.

Pei-Yao Wang, an incisive pianist, joined O'Connor for the closer, Olivier Messiaen's "Le Merle Noir" ("The Blackbird"). It was airy, aphoristic and mesmerizing, and O'Connor was as fresh and unflagging as she'd been two hours before.

James McQuillen (Jul 12th, 2006)

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)