Irish cellist David O 'Connell won a place to study with Moray Welsh and Hannah Roberts at the Royal Northern College of music in Manchester, were he subsequently won the Sir John Barbirolli prize for cello at the end of his fourth year, and further studies continued later with Ludwig Quandt in Berlin. After his undergraduate studies, he immediately entered the profession working with the BBC Philharmonic, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London and later in Germany with the Berliner Symphoniker and the Stadtlichesorchester Bremerhaven, under conductors Simon Rattle, Gennady Roshdesvensky, Danielle Gatti and Uri Temarkirov. Festival appearances with these orchestras include the BBC Proms, Edinburgh, Luzern and Berliner Festwochen. His solo recitals have been broadcast by both BBC and RTE radio, and he has recorded a disc of Brahms and Debussy cello sonatas with Berlin - based pianist Corrina Soller.

On returning to Scotland, David O Connell became closely associated with its leading contemporary music group, the Glasgow based Paragon ensemble and played this January in their 25th anniversary concerts under leading Scots conductor Gary Walker. His eclectic interests in music brought him into contact with The Chieftains and 70's Californian super-group BREAD, with whom he has played concerts. Whilst living in Berlin David worked on many soundtracks for German TV, Radio and movies.

David O'Connell now devotes a lot of time to teaching and was delighted to become a member of the instrumental team for Perth and Kinross Council under director Allan Young. He is also senior visiting tutor of cello at Aberdeen's specialist music school Dyce Academy. In August 2003, at the age of thirty, David became the youngest member of the String faculty at the RSAMD in Glasgow were he is now a professor of cello and lecturer in chamber music.


David writes of the Elgar Cello Concerto:

There can't be many musical documents as synonymous with the passing of an era as Elgar's last masterpiece. World War 1 had ripped Europe apart and a personality as highly sensitive as Elgar's was only just able to manage with the appalling spectre of suffering on a scale such as this. This greatest of English men was deeply passive. In this great and sad work, the listener is confronted by one man's mourning for what he perceived to be the passing of a lost world. If the centrepiece to Enigma Variations, Nimrod, is a hymn to man's best qualities, then the cello concerto, in parts certainly, is a pained anthem of complaint about man's seemingly endless ability to bring bloodshed on his fellow kind.

From those now famous and awesome opening chords, the listener is left in no doubt as to the strength of this old and gentle man's feelings. This anger however quickly gives way to the haunted and introspective feeling that pervades a lot of the work.

The contemporary cellist is faced with a two-fold challenge when he or she takes this concerto to the concert platform. Not only are they confronted with the task of representing the huge dynamic of Elgar's profound sadness, but also of dealing with the considerable extra poignancy afforded to it by its greatest interpreter, the late Jacqueline Du Pre, who lost her ability to play at the very peak of her unearthly powers to multiple sclerosis.
When Elgar refrains the slow movement near the very end of the concerto, not many moments in 20th century music spring to mind as being as lonely, lost and purely sad; the anger suddenly springs to the surface with the reprise of the opening chords and the music dashes to its inevitable end.


David O'Connell playing with PSO in November 2004


Perth Symphony Orchestra

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