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Mark O'Connor & The Knights — Three Perspectives on Four Seasons
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This project is funded by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

+ About the Performance
This program was recorded 05/02/2008 at Symphony Space.

Hailing from the American aural folk tradition, and inspired by French jazz master Stephane Grappelli, Mark O’Connor has forged a special place within the American musical landscape.  His work with Yo-Yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis, among others, has shown him to be a true Renaissance man of the violin.  This concert offers two of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” intermingled with two of Astor Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons” to complete the year, and concludes with O’Connor’s dazzling “American Seasons.”

O’Connor, an advocate for and mentor to young musicians, is joined by The Knights, a fellowship of emerging musicians from diverse and accomplished backgrounds, coming together for the shared joy of musical exploration. Known for their innovative programs consisting of classical masterworks, world premieres and arrangements of “roots” music such as gypsy tunes, Neapolitan love songs and dances, they join O’Connor on the Symphony Space stage to present multiple musical perspectives on the seasons, bringing new light to old works and O’Connor’s new work to light.




The Four Seasons

Antonio Vivaldi


I. Allegro

Springtime is upon us.

The birds celebrate her return with festive song,

and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.

Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven,

Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.


II. Largo

On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches rustling overhead, 

the goat-herd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.


III. Allegro

Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes, nymphs and shepherds 

lightly dance beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.


Soloist: Colin Jacobsen



I. Allegro

Under a hard Season, fired up by the Sun 

non molto Languishes man, languishes the flock and burns the pine

We hear the cuckoo’s voice; then sweet songs of the turtledove and finch are heard.

Soft breezes stir the air...but threatening north wind sweeps them suddenly aside.

The shepherd trembles, fearing violent storms and his fate.


II. Adagio

The fear of lightning and fierce thunder 

Robs his tired limbs of rest 

As gnats and flies buzz furiously around.


III. Presto

Alas, his fears were justified 

The Heavens thunders and roar and majestically 

Cuts the head off the wheat and damages the grain.


Soloist: Julia Wedman


“Otono porteno” Autumn in Buenos Aires

Astor Piazzolla


“Invierno porteno” Winter in Buenos Aires

Astor Piazzolla


Soloist: Johnny Gandelsman


American Seasons (Seasons of an American Life)

Mark O’Connor 


I. Spring

II. Summer

III. Fall

IV. Winter


Conductor: Eric Jacobsen

+ About the Artists

Best known as a composer and violinist who brought his own style of American string music to classical musicians and audiences, Mark O’Connor has met with unprecedented success in unpredictable ways, including a series of groundbreaking recordings such as Appalachia Waltz, The American Seasons, The New Nashville Cats, Heroes, Hot Swing and Thirty-Year Retrospective (the latter two on his own label OMAC Records). With a recent relocation to New York City in 2005, Mr. O’Connor continues to appear with his Appalachia Waltz Trio and his group Hot Swing. In addition, he continues to appear as soloist with some of the world’s leading orchestras performing his own six concerti. The Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp and Strings Conferences in Tennessee and San Diego are internationally renowned and he plans to bring one to New York City soon. Please visit, where Mr. O’Connor’s sheet music, OMAC Records, camp information and scheduled performances are available.

A fellowship of young musicians of diverse and accomplished backgrounds who come together for the shared joy of musical exploration, The Knights have brought audiences varied and engaging programs consisting of oddities and favorites from all eras, as well as world premieres, collaborations with jazz artists, singer-songwriters and arrangements of folk music from different world traditions, all in their quest to bring new light to old works and new works to light. The group takes on many forms, from a conductor-less chamber orchestra to a full orchestra that includes some of New York’s most sought after wind and percussion players. Members of the group are graduates of Juilliard, Curtis, Manhattan, Mannes and Eastman, and include members of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. As independent soloists, members of the group have performed with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Israel Philharmonic, to name a few, and appeared at the world’s most prestigious music festivals, including Marlboro, Tanglewood, Verbier, Stillwater, Lucerne, Salzburg and Moritzburg.

In September of 2006, The Knights gave the world-premiere of Mark O’Connor’s Harmony for violin and strings, with the composer performing the solo, in Musicians for Harmony’s 5th Anniversary Concert for Peace at Merkin Concert Hall. Other exciting collaborative artists have included flutist Paula Robison in performances of Neapolitan folk and love songs, violinist Mark Peskanov, soprano Susan Narucki, internationally recognized cellist Jan Vogler, Iranian ney (Persian bamboo flute) virtuoso Siamak Jahangiri, jazz violinist and singer Jenny Scheinman, acclaimed (and recognizably red-headed) pianist Steven Beck and singer-songwriter Christina Courtin (also a valiant Knight violinist).

The Knights (in one of their guises as champions of music of our time) were the resident chamber orchestra for the 2007 MATA Festival for young composers held at the Brooklyn Lyceum and premiering new works by Yotam Haber and Christopher Tignor and performing numerous other recent works by composers such as Osvaldo Golijov and Jim Mattheson. This past September, The Knights took audiences on a journey through Lisa Bielawa’s Chance Encounter at Seward Park on Manhattan’s Lower East Side; a unique site-specific song-cycle for soprano Susan Narucki and The Knights with text based on conversation overheard in transient public spaces.

The Knights have performed at FOTA’s annual Beethoven Festival at the Planting Fields Arboretum for the past two years, performing Beethoven’s 4th and 7th Symphonies with Eric Jacobsen conducting, and, in a special Brooklyn Lyceum evening, paired Beethoven’s 7th with Christina Courtin’s songs in full orchestral arrangements made by various members of The Knights.


Mark O'Connor & The Knights


Violin: Pico Alt, Johnny Gandelsman, Andrea Hallum, Kristi Helberg, Colin Jacobsen, Tomoko Katsura, Aisslin Nosky, Julia Wedman, Amie Weiss 

Viola: Kyle Armbrust, Max Mandel, Miranda Sielaff 

Cello: Alex Greenbaum, Eric Jacobsen, Michael Midlarsky, Jane O'Hara 

Bass: Zack Cohen 

Harpsichord: Steve Beck 

Guitar: Meng Su

+ About the Music

The extended musical family that is The Knights has its roots in musical partying: delirious soirees of sound that began when many of us were still in high school. Over the years it has evolved into a party that embodies the Webster’s definition, one that “works together to establish, promote, or gain acceptance for some kind of cause, opinion, etc. which they hold in common.” The Knights are champions of an increasingly wide range of music, from Baroque gigues to Mark O’Connor’s jigs, from Beethoven to Christina Courtin, from Piazzolla’s tangos to the haunting sounds of the Persian bamboo flute, from playing on the street to startled pedestrians in a Chance Encounter composed by Lisa Bielawa to setting a barge on the East River and its audience rocking in delight to another adventurous composer, Mozart. We invite you to join the party!
-Colin and Eric Jacobsen and The Knights

The American Seasons (Seasons of an American Life) is a concerto for violin and chamber orchestra. Composed in 1999, the music celebrates the various stages of an American life at the waking of the 21st century. Constructed in four movements and representing four stages of life – birth, adolescence, maturity and old age – the music also pays homage to Shakespeare’s Seasons Of Man, “His acts being seven ages,” incorporated throughout the work.

“Spring” introduces the ideas of birth and infancy. After the principal theme has been stated, there is a violin cadenza encountering all twelve major keys and a 13/8 time signature representing the ancient golden ratio. These elements recall birth with all the possibilities a new life offers. Ending the movement, the principal theme is repeated with more if posing life’s questions.

“Summer” represents the excitement and bravado of youthful adolescence and young adulthood. For the style of this movement, I use a happy-go-lucky blues voice which melds into swing. I identify swing rhythm in all of 20th century American music culture as a common thread that runs though ragtime and rock and roll on to rap. Swing means testing the waters and pushing the envelope for lovers and soldiers.

“Fall” is the slow movement symbolizing the wisdom of maturity. It is a peaceful theme with nostalgic strokes. It is a time for sincere reflection and enjoying one’s accomplishments in life.

“Winter” embodies the complexities and knowledge of an older person and that of a dying person. The movement begins with the principal them from “Spring,” but with a dissonance that emanates from a lifetime full of emotions and responsibilities. In the middle of the movement is a transition to an old world. I use my personal ancestry from Ireland as a foundation from which to rediscover one’s lineage and explore the meaning and value of a cultural legacy.
The exploration evolves into a four- and five-part fugue with a reel, jig, air, countered bass and the motif from the principal theme. All these elements, dances and melodies appear simultaneously and converge to form a unique insight to life’s consequences from a historical perspective. Following the fugue, the principal theme finds it’s way back in. It sounds much as it did at birth. In the end, the solo violin cadenza carries the last earthly breaths before the violin and orchestra once again join in harmony to focus on a new life being transformed somewhere else. Life’s four seasons in perpetuity.
-Mark O’Connor

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