Mark O'Connor is the heir to a long line of composer-performers who wrote music for themselves to play. Like his predecessors, O'Connor writes to his strengths, which include a lovely, expressive tone, a natural, easy way with the instrument, and an innate feeling for the style. The three works on this record were initially conceived as the movements of a concerto, and though they became independent pieces, they're connected by thematic and melodic elements. In style and atmosphere, they take their inspiration from the folk music, as well as the landscape and history, of America.
"Call of the Mockingbird" is a study in the evocation of nature and its sounds. The solo violin joins woodwinds, horns, and string pizzicato in conjuring the voices of birds, and there is an improvised, unaccompanied cadenza toward the end. The music breathes a simple, peaceful serenity. "Trail of Tears" commemorates the tragic dispossession of the Cherokee Indians; melancholy, a bit dissonant, the music has the heavy tread of a forced march and builds up to a powerful climax. In "Fanfare for a Volunteer," the death march becomes a clarion call for freedom, with drums, trumpets, and other brass; the solo fiddle bursts into a string of tunes and dances, and joins the drums in another improvised cadenza. After a quiet interlude, the piece ends with more martial fifes and drums. Throughout, perhaps the most unusual aspect of the music is the combination of folk-style fiddling with the highly sophisticated, masterful scoring for a large symphony orchestra; indeed, O'Connor's avowed purpose is to showcase the orchestral sections as much as the soloist. His playing is superb, disciplined as well as free, and the orchestra supports him splendidly. --Edith Eisler