Make us your home page
Instagram

Florida Orchestra's all-Beethoven concert features Irish pianist

Soloist John O’Conor is a renowned interpreter of Beethoven’s piano works.

Florida Orchestra

Soloist John O’Conor is a renowned interpreter of Beethoven’s piano works.

By Jon Carter

Times Staff Writer

Don't be surprised when world-renowned Irish pianist John O'Conor doesn't play a single note for what seems like an interminable time as the Florida Orchestra begins Beethoven's Concerto No. 3 for Piano and Orchestra.

It has the longest orchestral introduction of any of Beethoven's concertos — just over three minutes, depending on the tempo.

What does O'Conor think about during such a potentially awkward or unnerving time onstage?

"It seems so short because I love every moment of it!" O'Conor said during a phone interview from his seasonal home in Belleair Beach.

The concerto, part of the orchestra's all-Beethoven program this weekend, is like an old friend to O'Conor. It was the first Beethoven concerto he studied, at about age 12, and he knows it so well that it will be as if he is conducting alongside guest conductor Marcelo Lehninger.

For O'Conor, the concerto made him realize the strength of the German composer who was struggling with impending deafness. It was around the time the concerto was composed (1800) that Beethoven began writing to his friends describing his symptoms and the difficulties they caused him.

Widely regarded as one of the most important interpreters of Beethoven's piano music today, O'Conor gives a series of master classes known as "Beethoven Bootcamp" every year in Positano, Italy. He believes musicians should know Beethoven as a person first when they perform his music. For instance, most know Beethoven wasn't always the nicest guy, but many might not realize he also had a great, if slightly warped, sense of humor. He would go to elaborate lengths to use puns, often in a slightly derogatory manner.

O'Conor thinks each generation of musicians should pass on their knowledge. He's a good example. A direct line of pianists can be traced from O'Conor back to Beethoven. In fact, there are only five pianists between him and the composer, including O'Conor's own teacher and legendary pianist Wilhelm Kempff as well as the composer Franz Liszt.

Although O'Conor has a local home, he said his primary residence might as well be an airplane. He is still in demand as soloist and teacher, even though he has retired from his post as director of the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin. In addition to his international performance schedule, he is now visiting artist and professor at Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia and at the Showa University of Music in Japan.

"I travel so much that I forget where I've been," he said, "but I always know where I'm going."

Also on the Bravo Beethoven program will be the Overture to Goethe's Egmont and the Symphony No. 6, "Pastoral." Also offered this weekend are onstage seats for $75. They are sold out at Mahaffey and Ruth Eckerd Hall, but some still remain in Tampa for Friday night.

IF YOU GO

Bravo Beethoven

Irish pianist John O'Conor is the soloist with the Florida Orchestra for the all-Beethoven concerts. Brazilian Marcelo Lehninger conducts. Shows are at 8 p.m. Friday at Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. $15-$45.

Onstage seats: Sold out at Mahaffey and Ruth Eckerd Hall, but some seats remain at the Straz on Friday; $75. (727) 892-3337 or toll-free 1-800-662-7286.

Florida Orchestra's all-Beethoven concert features Irish pianist 01/07/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 3:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Ticket window: Shania Twain, Chicago, George Benson

    Music & Concerts

    Tickets for the following events go on sale this week:

    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 01:  Singer Shania Twain performs during the debut of her residency show "Shania: Still the One" at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on December 1, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)
  2. Plan your weekend Aug. 25-27: Craig Morgan, Wearable Art 13, SNL's Pete Davidson, Rodeo Fest

    Events

    Plan your weekend

    USF

    Pete Davidson: Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson will headline this year's University of South Florida Round-Up Comedy Show, a back-to-school tradition at USF. Expect to hear about his recent trip to rehab, since he's known for his confessional …

    The 12th annual Wearable art Fashion Show was held at the Dunedin Fine Art Center on Saturday evening, August 27, 2016.
DAVID W DOONAN | Special To The Times
  3. Pasco Events for Aug. 25-31

    Events

    25 Friday

    Feeding Pasco's Elderly hosts inaugural Leadership Breakfast: The Pasco County Elderly Nutrition Division/Feeding Pasco's Elderly will host this east Pasco event to mirror the Ambassador's Breakfast fundraising event that has been held the past two years on the county's west side. County …

  4. Local craft beer of the week: Cherry Pastelitos, Coppertail Brewing Co. in Tampa

    Bars & Spirits

    On Saturday, Tampa's Coppertail Brewing Co. will celebrate its third anniversary with a Florida weisse festival, showcasing densely fruited tart wheat beers from more than a dozen Tampa Bay area breweries including, of course, many of its own brews in this summer-friendly style.

    Center: Coppertail Brewing’s Cherry Pastelitos. Flanking it are Coppertail’s BOMP (blood orange, mango, passionfruit), left, and Pinky Swear (pink lemonade-flavored).
  5. 'Smokey Joe's Cafe' opens run at Show Palace Dinner Theatre

    Stage

    The Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson takes a nostalgic swing through the 1950s and '60s with its production of Smokey Joe's Cafe, which opens Aug. 26. The local offering of the longest-running rock 'n' roll revue in Broadway history features the legendary pop tunes of hit makers Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber. …

    A local production of the 1950s and '60s musical revue "Smokey Joe's Cafe" opens Aug. 26 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson.