Double Violin Concerto

Mark O'Connor / Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg

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Double Violin Concerto Review

by Blair Sanderson

For his Double Violin Concerto (1997) Mark O'Connor temporarily set aside his popular "Appalachian" mode (adequately represented in the last three pieces here), and turned his attention to the blues and jazz -- or at least the aspects of these genres he had absorbed and accepted as fair game for "classicizing." Considering the Texas swing and Dixieland imitations in the outer movements as timid choices, it seems that O'Connor has opted to play it safe, exploring only styles that have commercial viability. To that end, the opening and closing movements are showy and entertaining -- note especially O'Connor's "cutting" sessions in the dual cadenzas with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg -- but they are superficial, emotionally shallow, and kitschy, without a breath of poetry or lyricism to redeem them. In contrast, Midnight on the Dance Room Floor is more ingenious, interesting, and inviting, though O'Connor's jazz inflections seem heavily borrowed from St├ęphane Grappelli's hot jazz recordings, and the symphonic orchestration is not suggestive of the big band sound O'Connor wished to re-create. If judged on the performance, he and Salerno-Sonnenberg are engaging as a virtuoso duo, and Marin Alsop and the Colorado Symphony provide exuberant accompaniment in all three movements. The recording levels are fine, though on the loud side.

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