(bLondonderry, 22 Dec 1958). Northern Ireland composer. O’Connell began composing at the age of 12. At Trinity College, Dublin (BMus 1982), he studied composition with Joseph Groocock and Brian Boydell. He subsequently worked as a teacher and became a lecturer in composition at Trinity College in 1996. In 1996 he was elected to Aosdána, Ireland’s state-sponsored academy of creative artists. Since leaving university he has been fortunate in gaining a number of important commissions, beginning with the Concertino for 12 Players (1984–5). The cantata From the Besieged City (1988–9) was commissioned by the city council to commemorate the bicentenary of the siege of his home city. It began a line of vocal works that form the cornerstones of his recent output, a line that now includes three chamber operas.
O’Connell’s work is eclectic. Einzeichnung (1987) charts a decidedly modernist course, whereas the chamber opera Sensational! (1992) is full of dance rhythms and melodic lines reminiscent of Broadway. The Saxophone Sonata (1988) mixes strong, almost jazzy, rhythms with lines that sometimes echo Hindemith. But behind these shifts of style lies a common desire to contain ‘unshackled, eruptive force’ within a clear structural framework. This structural vigour is well exemplified by his control over the large span and long-breathed melodies of the first movement of his fine Sonata for Cello and Piano (1993–4).
Chbr Op: Sensational! (1, Stembridge), 1992; The Fire King (4, Goodby), 1993–5; My Love, my Umbrella (2, McGahern, Conway), 1997
Vocal: Fáilte don éan [Welcome Little Bird on Branch] (S.D. MacCuarta), SATB, 1988; From the Besieged City (Herbert), Mez, orch, 1988–9
MS in Contemporary Music Centre, Dublin
(b Dublin, 18 Jan 1947). Irish pianist. He studied at the College of Music, Dublin (1957–69), and later with Dieter Ivebar at the Vienna Hochschule für Musik (1971–6), where he was awarded the top prize for piano in 1975. In 1974 and 1980 he undertook special studies of Beethoven with Wilhelm Kempff. He made his début in Dublin in 1968 and his London début at the Wigmore Hall in 1974, winning first prize in the Vienna Beethoven International Piano Competition in 1973 and first prize in the Bösendorfer Piano Competition, Vienna, in 1975. His repertory favours Mozart, Beethoven (whose complete sonatas he has recorded) and Schubert, and he has made a particular study of the works of John Field, whose complete concertos, nocturnes and sonatas he has recorded. In 1976 O'Conor was appointed professor of piano at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin. In 1986 he became a co-founder and artistic director of the Dublin International Piano Competition. He is also a frequent jury member at other major international piano competitions including Leeds, Vienna and Sydney.
A term that is theoretically applicable to any mode or scale using eight different pitches to the octave, but which has found wide acceptance (since its adoption in Berger, 1963–4) as a designation for the scale (or pitch class collection) generated by alternating whole tones and semitones. A scalar order of the collection can begin with the semitone (the form termed ‘Model A’ by van den Toorn; e.g. C–C–D–E–F–G–A–A) or the tone (‘Model B’; e.g. C–D–D–F–F–G–A–B). Only three distinct transpositions are possible: the forms given above can be transposed to begin on C and D, but any further transpositions will replicate one of those three forms in its pitch class content. The collection is therefore a ‘mode of limited transposition’ under Messiaen's definition (1944).
The octatonic differs from other collections based on symmetrical octave partitioning (such as the whole-tone scale) in that it accommodates both major and minor triads (as well as diminished triads and dominant, minor or half-diminished 7ths) on its degrees a minor 3rd apart (i.e. on C, D, F and A in the ‘Model A’ scale given above). Referentially octatonic passages dating from the mid-19th century, notably in the music of Liszt, tend to involve triadic root progressions by the minor 3rd, while some later examples of the collection (either partial or complete) result from the actual superimposition of minor 3rd- or tritone-related triads or 7th chords (the celebrated bell chord that opens Act 1 scene ii of Musorgsky's Boris Godunov is a subset of the octatonic). The scalar form of the collection was noted by Rimsky-Korsakov (who dubbed it the ‘tone–semitone’ scale – see Taruskin), and numerous 20th-century composers subsequently explored its non-triadic partitionings, notably Stravinsky and Bartók (whose piano piece ‘Diminished Fifth’ from Mikrokosmos divides the collection into two minor tetrachords a tritone apart). As well as by Messiaen (who classified it as his ‘Mode 2’), the scale was used extensively by Pijper in the Netherlands, where it became known as the ‘Pijper scale’. From the 1980s onwards octatonicism received considerable attention in the literature of music analysis: while still most frequently discussed with reference to the music of Stravinsky, it has been explored in studies of Debussy, Ravel, Skryabin and Webern among others.