Music in Monkstown 2016 Performers
“A pianist of unbounding sensitivity” (Gramophone); “He represents a vanishing tradition that favors inner expression and atmosphere over showmanship and bravura” (Chicago Tribune); “Impeccable technique and musicality … it would be hard to imagine better performances” (Sunday Times – London) ; “This artist has the kind of flawless touch that makes an audience gasp“ (Washington Post); “Exquisite playing” (New York Times).
The Irish pianist John O’Conor has been gathering wonderful reviews for his masterly playing for over forty years. Having studied in his native Dublin, in Vienna with Dieter Weber and being tutored by the legendary Wilhelm Kempff his unanimous 1st Prize at the International Beethoven Piano Competition in Vienna in 1973 opened the door to a career that has brought him all around the world.
His recordings of the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas led CD Review to say that he “by now should be recognised as the world’s premier Beethoven interpreter” and his recent recordings of the complete Beethoven Piano Concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra and Andreas Delfs have also been greeted with acclaim.
A Steinway Artist, he is Chair of the Piano Division at Shenandoah University in Virginia, a faculty member at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, International Visiting Artist at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and Visiting Professor at Showa University in Japan.
For his services to music he has been decorated “Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the French Government, awarded the “Ehrenkreuz fur Wissenschaft und Kunst” by the Austrian Government, the “Order of the Rising Sun” by the Japanese Government and has received many other awards.
Mairead is an operatic soprano active in concert and recital work as well as opera. She started taking singing lessons at 14 and in 2003 graduated from the Royal Irish Academy of Music with a First-Class honours degree in Performance. In 2004 she was a special prize winner in the Belvedere International Singing Competition in Vienna as well as winning the Gervase Elwes Cup at Dublin's Feis Ceoil.
Mairead's performances as the soprano soloist with Ireland's National Symphony Orchestra include Mahler's Symphony No 8 and Symphony No 4, as well as RTÉ's eight part television series, "Mozart Sessions". She also sang Mimì in the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra's concert performance of La Boheme and Gretel in their concert performance of Humperdink's Hansel und Gretel. Her other operatic performances have included the title role in William Vincent Wallace's opera Maritana to celebrate the 275th anniversary of the RDS and both Pacquette in Leonard Bernstein's Candide (2008), and First Lady in The Magic Flute (2007) for the English National Opera.
Anthony Byrne studied piano in Dublin with Marie Jones and John O’Conor and he continued his studies in Canada, New York and London with such internationally renowned teachers as Peter Katin, Adele Marcus and Alexander Kelly.
He studied conducting in Juilliard with Patricia Handy and Vincent La Selva and in Dublin with Colman Pearse.
Anthony has given concerts in Ireland, England, the US, Canada and Japan. In 1986 he made his London debut at the Purcell Room and his Wigmore Hall debut in 1989.
He has performed with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra on more than 30 occasions.
1999 saw the release on CD of the complete piano music of John Buckley and Raymond Deane’s Quarternion with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Colman Pearse for Naxos Marco-Polo. In 2001 he released a CD of the piano music of Bernard Geary and in 2002 a CD of piano music by the 19th century Irish composer Arthur O’Leary.
Throughout his career he has performed more than 50 works by Contemporary Irish Composers, many of them commissions and first performances.
Since its formation in 2002, the Navarra Quartet has built an international reputation as one of the most dynamic and poetic string quartets of today. Selected for representation by the Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT) from 2006 to 2010, they have been awarded the MIDEM Classique Young Artist Award, a Borletti- Buitoni Trust Fellowship, a Musica Viva tour and prizes at the Banff, Melbourne and Florence International String Quartet Competitions.
The Navarra Quartet has appeared at major venues throughout the world including the Wigmore Hall, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Luxembourg Philharmonie, Berlin Konzerthaus, and international festivals such as Bath, Grachten, Sandviken, Schwetzinger, Rheingau, Mecklenburg- Vorpommern, Huntingdon (Australia), Aix- en-Provence, Bellerive and the BBC Proms. Further afield they have given concerts in Russia, the USA and the Middle East and have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, RAI 3 (Italy), Radio 4 (Holland), SWR (Germany), Radio Luxembourg and ABC Classic FM (Australia). Highly-acclaimed recordings include Haydn’s The Seven Last Words for Altara Records and a disc of Pēteris Vasks’ first three String Quartets for Challenge Records, which they recorded whilst working closely with the composer himself. The recording was described by critics as “stunning”, “sensational” and “compelling”, and was nominated for the prestigious German Schallplattenkritik Award.
Navarra Quartet members:
Simone van der Giessen
Clarinettist John Finucane is the founder and director of Music In Monkstown.
John, who has been Principal Clarinet with Ireland's RTE National Symphony Orchestra since 1995, has also had an active career as a soloist, chamber musician and conductor in Ireland and abroad. Described by Gramophone magazine as 'an outstanding virtuoso', he has also worked with the Ulysses Ensemble, the Irish Chamber Orchestra, the Welsh National Opera, Opera North and Irish Film Orchestras. He has appeared regularly on radio and on television programmes, including RTE's The Symphony Sessions and Britain's The South Bank Show. He has a particular affinity to chamber music and has worked with many groups, including the Ysaye, the Navarra and the Vanbrugh Quartets.
John Finucane is also a conductor of note, having studied with Janus Furst and Albert Rosen amongst others, and has regularly conducted the highly regarded RTE Concert Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra and Opera Theatre Company. He was one of the founders of the Dublin Chamber Orchestra and has been the Musical Director of the Hibernian Orchestra for nearly thirty years. Despite his hugely busy life as a performing artist and conductor, John has found the time to join the faculty of the Royal Irish Academy of Music. His many tours have included China as a soloist as well as with the National Chamber Ensemble of Ireland and Academy Chamber Ensemble performing to sell-out audiences.
He is a D'Addario Woodwinds Performing Artist
Malachy Robinson is a dedicated chamber musician, as passionate about Early Music as he is about New Music.
He is a founder of the Gregory Walkers, a group performing “Early Music from Ireland and beyond” in which he plays the violone, and is director of the Robinson Panoramic Quartet, a revelatory alternative to the standard string quartet. Principal double-bass with the Irish Chamber Orchestra since 1995, he is also a founder member of the cutting-edge Crash Ensemble, as well as appearing with period-instrument orchestras such as The Sixteen, the English Concert, the OAE and the Academy of Ancient Music. He was a founder member of the Irish Baroque Orchestra (with whom he played for ten years) and the Nuevo Tango Quartet (playing the music of Astor Piazzolla). He has performed with the Vanbrugh, Callino, Parisii, T’ang, Con Tempo and Vogler String Quartets, the Phoenix Piano Trio, Daghda Dance Company, the Brian Byrne Big Band, and theatrical diva Camille O'Sullivan. His quintet Lunfardia, led by Argentinean guitarist Ariel Hernandez received four-star reviews from the press for their recordings.
Regular solo double-bass performances have included many Irish premieres, including Serbian composer Zoran Eric’s concerto “Off” which he performed eight times on tour with the ICO. He has worked closely with and premiered pieces by many Irish composers including Kevin O’Connell, Judith Ring, Ian Wilson and Raymond Deane. His double-bass playing has been described by the Irish Times as “rich in rhetoric” with “rhythmic life” and “unassuming virtuosity” and by the Irish Examiner as “remarkable virtuosity” employing a “variety of timbres”. The Classical Review magazine (reviewing a recording by the EQ Ensemble) recently praised his “adroitly lowering, often exquisitely bathetic double bass” !
A native of Dublin, Conor Hastings was born into an extensive musical family, and was exposed to a wide variety of music from an early age. He began to learn the Recorder at age five, and the Trumpet at age twelve, at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.
He went on to study Orchestral Trumpet at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. During the course of his studies he stumbled upon the Renaissance Cornetto, and very swiftly took to Historical Performance on original instruments. Whilst at the Royal Welsh he studied Cornetto part time with Jeremy West (His Majesty’s Sackbutts and Cornetts) and Gawain Glenton (The English Cornett and Sagbutt Ensemble), and has since been an active Performer in the UK. In 2014 he began his current studies at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland, under the tutelage of the legendry Bruce Dickey. During his time in Basel, Conor has performed profes-sionally all over Europe, including more Monteverdi Vespers than he can count, and taken part in projects through the Schola Cantorum including a tour of Historical Organs and churches in northern Italy, most notably San Marco in Venice, San Petronio in Bologna and Santa Barbara in Mantua.
In addition to his studies and performing schedule, Conor is a busy teacher of the Cornetto, and recently began to tutor students in his old College in Cardiff, hoping to expose as many people as possible to the world of early music.
Conor has also kept up his trumpet playing, and remains a busy performer in Ireland and UK, including regular performances with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, mainly buying coffee for the trumpet section and very occasionally some trumpet playing!
Belfast-born Michael McHale has established himself as one of the leading Irish pianists of his generation.
Since completing his studies at Cambridge University and the Royal Academy of Music he has developed a busy international career as a solo recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician. Michael has performed at many important musical centres including Suntory Hall, Tokyo; Lincoln Center, New York; Symphony Hall, Boston; Konzerthaus, Berlin; Pesti Vigadó, Budapest; the Ushuaia and Tanglewood Festivals, and for TV and radio broadcasts throughout Europe, Asia, North and South America.
His début solo album ‘The Irish Piano’ was released in 2012 on the RTÉ lyric fm label and has already been featured on national radio in France, Austria, Canada, Australia, the USA, Italy, Estonia and the UK. The disc was selected as ‘CD of the Week’ by critic Norman Lebrecht, who described it as “a scintillating recital…fascinating from start to stop”, whilst Gramophone praised “the singing sensibility of McHale’s sensitive and polished pianism”.
Michael has performed frequently as concerto soloist with the Hallé, Bournemouth Symphony and Moscow Symphony orchestras, the Teatro Colon Orchestra, Discovery Ensemble in Boston, the London Mozart Players and all five of the major Irish orchestras in repertoire ranging from Mozart and Beethoven to Gershwin and Rachmaninov.
A recent début with the Irish Chamber Orchestra saw Michael deputise for the indisposed Leon Fleisher in a performance of Prokofiev’s Left Hand Concerto with Gérard Korsten, which was broadcast worldwide on a live online video stream. Engagements in 2013/14 include regular season appearances with the Ulster Orchestra (Liszt Concerto No.2), the RTÉ NSO (Gershwin Concerto) and the Irish Chamber Orchestra (the premiere of Garrett Sholdice’s Piano Concerto) in addition to further CD recordings, solo recitals and chamber music engagements.
His début solo recitals in the Wigmore Hall, London, the National Concert Hall, Dublin, and the Phillips Collection, Washington DC received great public and critical acclaim, with the Washington Post praising his “…bravura playing in the music of Franz Liszt…” and his “…beautifully proportioned and energetic account of Mozart’s Sonata in C minor, K.457…”
In addition to winning first prize and the audience prize at the prestigious Terence Judd/Hallé Award finals in 2009 (previous winners include Nikolai Lugansky and Stephen Hough), Michael was awarded the Brennan and Field Prizes at the 2006 AXA Dublin International Piano Competition and the 2005 Camerata Ireland/Accenture Award. His teachers and mentors include John O’Conor, Réamonn Keary, Christopher Elton, Ronan O’Hora and Barry Douglas.
Michael collaborates regularly with Sir James Galway, Michael Collins, Patricia Rozario, Ensemble Avalon and the Cappa Ensemble, and his discography includes recordings for Chandos, RTÉ lyric fm, Louth CMS, Lorelt and Nimbus Alliance.