John O’Conor is my music hero.
The Irish pianist first performed for me when I was thirteen. Before then, classical music was only a small part of my vocabulary. The first song he played was the typical, grit-your-teeth piece attempted at every child’s piano recital—Ludwig van Beethoven’s Für Elise. Except O’Conor’s skilled performance would have made the composer himself display a satisfied grin.
Later in that concert was Nocturne in E-flat major, by Frédéric Chopin. From the first few notes and measures, O’Conor pulled me in and held my attention. Like the first sip of a fine wine, the music trickled through my senses, and I absorbed the taste of Chopin’s melody. The nocturne was added to my “favorites” list, and I pursued the music of my now cherished composer like a man obsessively hunting for buried treasure.
O’Conor didn’t realize he was performing for me. I simply bought his Piano Classics – Popular Works for Solo Piano (Telarc) album and popped it in the CD player. His performance not only stimulated a love of particular composers and songs, but my deep love for the piano.
O’Conor, quite simply, changed my musical life.
(listen to John O’Conor perform Beethoven’s Bagatelle for Piano, G minor)
Was it his masterful translation of the music itself? I couldn’t be sure. I only knew that whatever my mood, the pianist was there, soothing me. He helped me to understand Edvard Grieg, Claude Debussy, and many other composers I never knew before he presented them.
Not until I was about twenty did I see him perform, finally, in concert. I didn’t get to meet him. But I watched him, captivated. I admired the gift he was endowed with, the gift he unknowingly shared with me.
I am a lover of classical music today because of him. Because of a power he didn’t know he possessed—the power to instill appreciation in a beautiful art form.
The power of music.
Has music changed you in any way? Was it a song, composer, or simply something at the right time and in the right place?
John O’Conor (U.S. performances)
March 13, 2011
Haydn’s Sonata in B minor
Field’s Three Nocturnes
Schubert’s Sonata in A major
Mendelssohn’s Three Songs Without Words
Beethoven’s Sonata no. 31 in A-flat major
The Frick Collection – NY
March 19 / 20, 2011
Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 3
Monterey Symphony – CA