Maggie O'Connor / Mark O'Connor

Duo.

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Violinist Mark O'Connor emerged from the world of country music, perhaps the most distant branch of violin music from the classical world (although try telling that to the symphonic musicians who played on Patsy Cline's recordings). He has devoted the later part of his career to exploring the merging of the two forms, and more generally to the use of the violin in a panoramic exploration of American vernacular music. This little collection, recorded with O'Connor's wife Maggie, is not among his most ambitious releases, but is certainly among the most appealing. O'Connor offers his own two-violin arrangements, quite dense and sophisticated, of mostly American popular tunes, the exception being Astor Piazzolla's Libertango. Many come from O'Connor's base in country, bluegrass music, and he shifts styles adeptly among the roots fiddle sounds in these genres, producing an acceptable Cajun Jole Blon (track 6), for example, or a lovely version of the Western swing fiddle classic Faded Love. But there are also a few jazz pieces, some originals, and the nostalgic folk classic Ashokan Farewell. Part of the charm of the program is the nature of the arrangements, reminiscent of Renaissance bicinia, with a teacher and student part that gradually converge in virtuosity. One misstep: the passages where the two sing in an offhand way break the quite rigorous mood. But really this is unlike any other music anybody else has made, and that's the acid test.

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