One of the miracles of the Internet is how you can preview CDs. Just now I found myself listening to the great violinist/fiddler Mark O'Connor playing "Old Folks at Home" from his new disc, "American Classics,
O'Connor is coming to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra this weekend to play his just-premiered Improvised Violin Concerto. If it is anything like the Fiddle Concerto he played three years ago with the Orchard Park Symphony, it will be an experience to remember. Someone said that, a stranger, leaving the Orchard Park Symphony after hearing the Fiddle Concerto. "That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," she said.
I am writing more about this new CD in this week's Gusto but meanwhile, let me just say this one thing, something gets me about Mark O'Connor's playing. I think it is his sincerity. He plays things straight and it brings out the songs' poignant emotion. He just lets the music stand. On his new CD, he is accompanied by pianist Rieko Aizawa who I understand is quite the pianist in her own right, a student of Peter Serkin. But Aizawa is completely in the background, playing accompaniments that are almost not there.
Honest, it just twists your heart. I am a sucker for nostalgia and Stephen Foster, the whole bag, I admit that. My ancestors came from southern Germany. I have that Weltschmerz in my blood. I love the panoramic view this music -- this video -- gives of American history. The poignant photographs, accompanying this nostalgic Victorian song. Starting with Stephen Foster -- who, in case you did not know, died young, a drunk in the Bowery. There are photos of Civil War soldiers. The men at about 2:16, black and white, standing there together, the looks on their faces . ... There are photos of the Bowery, an ancient steam locomotive, minstrels.
Can you take one more video? I know I can.
Where we had sad-eyed Stephen Foster we now have sad-eyed Scott Joplin.
-- Mary Kunz Goldman