Thursday, April 19, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Florida Orchestra's all-Beethoven concert features Irish pianist

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.

Comments
Joey Fatone’s hot dog food truck is coming to Plant City this weekend

Joey Fatone’s hot dog food truck is coming to Plant City this weekend

We're still a few weeks from Justin Timberlake's nearly sold-out concert in Tampa. Until then, you'll have to make do with Joey Fatone's hot dogs in Plant City.Timberlake's 'N SYNC bandmate has a burgeoning wiener empire in Orlando, Fat One's Hot Dog...
Updated: 4 hours ago
SoundBytes: Steel Panther, Surfer Blood, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and more

SoundBytes: Steel Panther, Surfer Blood, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and more

— Florida's own indie rockers Surfer Blood are returning to Crowbar on Aug. 24, with the Blonde Tongues opening. Tickets are $13 and up. Click here.— Hair metal satirists Steel Panther are coming to Jannus Live on Aug. 16. Tickets go on s...
Published: 04/18/18
Shinedown’s Barry Kerch talks Jacksonville, rock festivals, the demons that inspired their new album and more

Shinedown’s Barry Kerch talks Jacksonville, rock festivals, the demons that inspired their new album and more

There was a time in the lifespan of Shinedown when Barry Kerch wasn't all that keen on festivals."Backstage for the bands has gotten a lot better," he said by phone before Shinedown was set to play a biker festival in Arizona. "It used to be an extre...
Published: 04/18/18
Huge concert week in Tampa: Foo Fighters, Kenny Chesney, 98 Rockfest, more

Huge concert week in Tampa: Foo Fighters, Kenny Chesney, 98 Rockfest, more

PURE NIRVANA: Foo FightersDave Grohl may be America’s last unquestioned rock god. He’s played with Kurt Cobain and Jimmy Page, Tom Petty and Trent Reznor and St. Vincent, and he also leads a pretty decent group — perhaps you’ve heard of them — called...
Published: 04/18/18
The Flaming Lips have a Record Store Day beer. Here’s where to get it in Tampa Bay

The Flaming Lips have a Record Store Day beer. Here’s where to get it in Tampa Bay

It's no surprise the Flaming Lips are behind one of the most unusual collectible items this Record Store Day. This is a band, after all, whose past Record Store Day stunts include an album encased in a life-size chocolate skull and another infused wi...
Published: 04/18/18
Review: Jason Isbell breathes life into masterful lyrics at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater

Review: Jason Isbell breathes life into masterful lyrics at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater

Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize on Monday, and a more deserving recipient you'd be hard-pressed to find. He's the best songwriter in America, and it was nice to see that reflected in a way the straw-spined Grammys never will.But if you want to ta...
Published: 04/18/18
Dickey Betts announces intimate return to the stage in Sarasota

Dickey Betts announces intimate return to the stage in Sarasota

The return of Dickey Betts will begin at home.The legendary Allman Brothers Band guitarist, retired from live performance since 2014, has been rolling out a series of comeback dates around the country, starting this spring. And the first one will tak...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Lauryn Hill bringing ‘Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ tour to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg

Lauryn Hill bringing ‘Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ tour to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg

Ms. Lauryn Hill is bringing one of hip-hop's landmark albums to life in St. Petersburg. The iconoclastic singer and rapper will this summer embark on a tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and it'll hit St. Peter...
Published: 04/17/18
Scorpions coming to Amalie Arena in Tampa

Scorpions coming to Amalie Arena in Tampa

The Scorpions are once again ready to Rock You Like a Hurricane.The formative German rockers have announced new tour dates for this fall, including a stop at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sept. 14. It's a make-good of sorts for a show that was scheduled fo...
Published: 04/17/18
Rhiannon Giddens talks protest music, her MacArthur ‘genius grant,’ teaching her kids about race and more

Rhiannon Giddens talks protest music, her MacArthur ‘genius grant,’ teaching her kids about race and more

There are towns on Rhiannon Giddens' upcoming tour that most of her fans will never visit. Galax, Virginia. Greer, South Carolina. Alta, Wyoming."They're still my people," Giddens said in a recent phone interview. "I don't consider myself at the kind...
Published: 04/17/18