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. Pasco libraries offer relief from the heat with reading programs, activities

    Kids

    HOLIDAY — Angelina Ponzo has a goal this summer: to read as many books as possible.

    Alexis Ponzo, left, uses watercolor crayons to draw a heart tattoo on her daughter Angelina's arm during a recent summer reading program event at Centennial Park Library in Holiday. Local libraries are hosting reading programs and a variety of educational, entertaining and family friendly events throughout the summer months.
  2. Want to feel old? It's been 20 years since the first 'Harry Potter' was published

    Books

    He was so cute: Blond hair, blue eyes and a killer smile. He was dressed in a black robe with a fake scar on his forehead and regaling our fifth-grade class with his book report on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. As a 10-year-old with only the most sophisticated of tastes (give me a Baby-Sitters Club any day), …

    An auctioneer holds a first edition copy of the first Harry Potter book "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" containing annotations and illustrations by author J.K. Rowling. The tale has turned 20,  published in Britain on June 26, 1997. Since then, it has sold more than 450 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 79 languages. (Associated Press [2013])
  3. Restaurant review: Deccan Spice in Feather Sound is a gateway to the allures of Indian cuisine

    Food & Dining

    CLEARWATER

    Feather Sound's Tru Lounge, which was Flo Lounge before that, morphed into Grand Siam in 2012, a giant Thai restaurant owned by the folks who had Ban Thai restaurants in Tampa, Clearwater, Brandon and Lakeland. It was lavish with dramatic fluted chandeliers and a long, polished wood sushi bar, but it …

    Some of the selections at a recent lunch buffet at Deccan Spice included chicken biryani, gobi masala and murgh masala.
  4. From the food editor: Almond-Crusted Chicken Tenders will be your new favorite go-to

    Cooking

    I decided my almond chicken obsession was becoming a bit much.

    Almond Crusted Chicken Tenders. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  5. Who topped the Billboard charts 35 years ago? Paul and Stevie, of course

    Blogs

    We really did have it so much better in the early ‘80s. Just check out the Billboard top 5 songs for the week of June 26, 1982.