Responses to Ives, Peter Dickenson
"This fascinating collection was planned to mark the 50th anniversary of Charles Ives's death in 2004 but it has been worth waiting for. Heather O'Donnell includes a rare recording of the Five Take-Offs as well as five new pieces related to Ives in various ways. These new works show how fruitful the discoveries of Ives remain to composers 100 years later. It's surprising that the Five Take-Offs are not better known. The second one, "Rough and Ready", is certainly that and O'Donnell is a match for everything. "
Neue Zeitschrift für Musik
Responses to Ives, Rainer Nonnenmann
"The art of combining the various pieces on this CD make it a downright through-composed album and self-portrait of the multifaceted and excellent pianist Heather O'Donnell... Here is someone who is clearly passionate about these works, and who possesses a great understanding of them as well. "
Berlins MaerzMusik führt ihr Programm ad absurdum, Volker Tarnow
April 7, 2010
"...The second highlight of MaerzMusik Festival was also not exactly new. Frederic Rzewski's 32 Variations on a Chilean revolutionary song, "The People United will Never be Defeated", was written in 1975. It is an eminently musically conceived work which intelligently bridges the gap between popular and avant-guard music. Heather O'Donnell gave it a sophisticated interpretation. Rzewski's piece fills over an hour with very demanding music and there was - sensational by the standards of contemporary music - not a single boring moment."
The Journal of Music, Ireland
Heather O'Donnell- Responses to Ives, Bob Gilmore
" This brilliant now Mode release goes a long way in reconciling me with the shorter [Ives] piano works, emphasising their explosive creativity by placing them within the context of new work that in some ways derives inspiration from them. Heather O'Donnell is an American pianist based in Berlin, and is a wonderful example of the intelligent and articulate modern performer; she not only plays Ives' music with sensitivity and gusto but has curated this programme of new works around it and written the thoughtful liner notes, explaining her project's essence and its motivations. "
Heather O'Donnell: Responses to Ives, Meret Forster
"This CD celebrates the American New Music pioneer Charles Ives through his own work as well as newly composed works by contemporary soulmate-composers. The extraordinary pianist Heather O'Donnell succeeds in bringing the various idiosyncratic voices of Ives together with a sensitivity to tonal color, virtuostically creating a compelling overall picture of the composer. A worthy homage! "
The New Yorker- Unquiet Thoughts, New York
Label of the Year- Mode, Alex Ross
"Picking favorite items from Mode’s catalogue is difficult, but I’d single out, for a start, the second volume of Cage quartets, with the Arditti; Aki Takahashi’s Feldman program; Steven Schick’s Xenakis percussion survey; and Adams’s “Strange and Sacred Noise.” Two outstanding recent discs are Heather O’Donnell’s Responses to Ives and the complete string quartets of Xenakis, with the fiery Jack Quartet. "
Responses to Ives, Uncle Dave Lewis
"O'Donnell's benchmark for Ives -- like that for many pianists -- is the Concord Sonata, a work that only a few pianists would dare to take on as late as the 1960s yet is far more widely played in the twenty first century. Much of the Ives O'Donnell plays here -- including some of his hardest compositions -- is treated as though it was close to the Concord or at least informed by its example. This approach definitely works well, particularly for the two Transcriptions from "Emerson" included; the recording of Study No. 21: Some Southpaw Pitching! is clearly the most focused and accurate version ever offered on disc. O'Donnell balances out Ives' odd mixture of atmosphere, dread, furor, and sentimentality in Study No. 9: The Anti-Abolitionist Riots in the 1830s and 1840s. These are difficult works to interpret; the published scores tend to be dense and phrasing is difficult to parse out from what appears on the page. The Anti-Abolitionist Riots in particular reads more like prose than poetry, and the typical, continuous thread of barlines and music is not what one encounters in it; however, O'Donnell finds the filament of Ives' argument and delivers a seamless performance. "
Musical Pointers, London
Responses to Ives, Peter Grahame Woolf
"This RESPONSES TO IVES project, conceived to mark the 50th aniversary of the composer's death in 1954, had occupied Heather O'Donnell through most of the present decade and the outcome is a credit to all concerned. The recording at Deutschlandfunk, Cologne is vivid, Heather O'Donnell's playing is impeccable and her own liner notes veritable literature. "
Vom leichten Zauber zeitgemäßer Musik, Jürgen Grässer
"Wüstenwanderung [by Walter Zimmermann] based on Plato's Timaeus surpasses everything a pianist normally has to do. Seven layers of superimposed material, and ever-increasing tempi reflect the creation of the World Soul. "It was a beautiful experience to work on this piece, like a meditation", says the pianist. Heather O'Donnell studied this piece for several months, confronting the challenge of making the impossible possible. She achieved this splendidly. "
A Delicate Pianist with a Rough Repertoire
"If a pianist plays a lot of Avant-guard music, a suspicion immediately occurs that is too often confirmed- they insist on playing Stockhausen because they can't play Beethoven. Fortunately there are exceptions. The most famous is Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Though less famous, Heather O'Donnell, an American living in Berlin, is no less versatile. O'Donnell's preference for wild and woolly works doesn't arise from any lack of musical gifts, but from her convictions alone... O'Donnell offers deeply spiritual interpretations without the ringing theories. "
Ein spannender Abend der neuen Musik
"The very remarkable pianist Heather O'Donnell opened the evening with Helmut Lachenmann's Fünf Variationen über ein Thema von Franz Schubert: She carried off Lachenmann's translation of the Schubertian melodic language with a powerful touch and explosive temperament. In the variations she shined with intensive coloring, finesse, and a certain instinct for harmonic breadth."
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
So wird Beethoven zerlegt, Gerhard Rohde
"At the Musik der Zeit concerts one marvels at the continuously high level of interpretation… In Arnulf Herrmann's "Privatsammlung" (2006) the American Heather O'Donnell presented herself as a sovereign pianist, likewise for Bernhard Lang's "DW12 - Cellular Automata" from 2003 in which the romantic emotional cosmos is disassembled into various modular componants, the intoxication of yesterday must bend to the rationale of today. Nevertheless, the resultant music also aquires emotional qualities. But this is largely dependant on the virtuoso interpretation."
Keine Spur von Damenkränzchen, Rainer Nonnenmann
"Shortly before midnight, the english [sic] pianist Heather O'Donnell offered a fantastic "Late Night Show" of joyous playing, a powerful lightness and a sense of irony. After works by Charles Ives and Arnulf Herrmann she played Bernhard Lang's half-hour "Horror Trip through Piano Literature" "DW12 - Cellular Automata" (2003). An opportunity to draw out of the piano what had been packed in throughout the last 200 years- Beethoven, Chopin, Boulez und Cecil Taylor: virtuostic demonics and analytic distance with British wit crossed into a playful affirmation (or disaffirmation) of tradition."
Neue Musik Zeitung
Musik, Texte und Kunst, Dr. Adelheid Krause-Pichler
"Heather O'Donnell ranks among the most talented young pianists on the new-music scene today. . . This concert was in many respects an experience, through the high-quality of a spiritually-inclined pianist who realized the intentions of the composers to a degree seldomly heard. . . The program concluded with Maurice Ravel's "Gaspard de la nuit", and with these three pieces the pianist once again displayed her immense abilities."
Gaumenraspeln, Stammeln und hysterisches Gezeter, Werner Müller-Grimmel
"The climax of the concert was O'Donnell's fulminant interpretation of Bernhard Lang's piano study "DW 12 cellular Automata"; a contrasting sequence of pianistically demanding movements, at times vigorous like Oscar Peterson, repetitive like Steve Reich, fleetingly discoursive, melancholically lost in thought or full of silvery grace like Debussy, but maintaining throughout all these quotations its own tonal language."
Weg vom Supermarkt der Klänge, Dietholf Zerweck
"With Heather O'Donnell, the world premiere of [Bernhard] Lang's cycle had a ideally-matched interpreter: explosive in the surely minimal, but monstrously inelastic motivic loops, electrically jazzy over a improvisatory Boogie-ostinato, and very differentiated in the representation of particular sound characteristics."
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Vorsicht, knurrende Sänger, Susanne Benda
"In that Lang always drives the musical material further into perpetual repetition and makes it more dynamic, his music takes on a snowball effect- always gaining more and more size, width, heaviness, and strength. Lang's demanding piece lay in the best hands with the pianist Heather O'Donnell."
Tastenshow mit Dopple-Pointe, Armin Knauer
"For one moment the iron rules of New Music seemed to be overridden. The basic rules, chiseled in stone, like "Never flatter the ears!" or "Never get swept away by virtuosity!" seemed invalidated as Heather O'Donnell sat down at the piano - this arch-conservative 19th century piece of salon furniture - to premiere Bernhard Lang's piece "DW 12 cellular automata" . With its rotating patterns, it turned out to be a technical bravura piece that brought the interpreter downright enthusiastic "Bravos" at the end. Hurrahs for demonstrative virtuosity at a new music festival? Eclat!
But then the bravura-show of the pianist had a double point: On the one hand, the tirelessly circling sounds had the effect of producing a machine-like structure, as if generated by a computer, as the demonstratively musical performance of O'Donnell showed ad absurdum. And on the other hand, her keyboard acrobatics conjured up the remembrance of the golden age of great virtuosos, in that the totality is not permitted to flow towards an emotional exuberance, instead kept in check by a cool rotation, calculated motions. A clever and subtle conflict with the musical tradition and as such absolutely at the height of timeliness. "
The Village Voice, New York
Call it Spectral, Kyle Gann
"American expatriate pianist Heather O'Donnell gave as fiery a performance of Ives's Concord Sonata as I've ever heard, following an exhausting recital of works in homage to Ives."
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Neues Deutschland, Berlin
Unerhört, grenzenlos, Liesel Markowski
"An unforgettable piano recital was given by the young American (living in Berlin) Heather O'Donnell. She is a thoroughly excellent pianist that enchants with a strong charisma, differentiated touch cultivation, and rapturous musicality. She performed with a breathtaking virtuosity, all-out energy, and playful wit."
Paris Transatlantic Magazine, Paris
MaerzMusik 2004, Phillippe Simon
"American pianist Heather O'Donnell gave an intense and elegant reading of the "Concord Sonata" - quite a feat after the long recital of new works she'd given that same morning."
Die Zeit, Hamburg
Yankee Doodle und Visionen, Volker Hagadorn
"It's impossible to imagine a better place to concentrate on the legendary Concord Sonata as here, where Heather O'Donnell revealed with keyboard thunderstorms the touching marriage of Beethoven with North American folklore. "
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Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Mainz
Auf Transzendentalistischem Pfad, Jürgen Otten
" . . .Heather O'Donnell presented an interpretation of the philosophic-aesthetic and multifarious 'Concord' Sonata, one that was carried by an enormous strength of imagination, emphasizing the lyrical side far more than the tonal ruggedness and rhythmic gruffness. An unusual approach chosen by the pianist, surely. But compellingly held-together. Thus, one of the highpoints of MaerzMusik."
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Viel Lärm um wenig, Isabel Herzfeld
"Heather O'Donnell performed with inimitable fineness and transparency."
Die Tageszeitung, Berlin
Im Räderwerk der Töne, Björn Gottstein
"There came a whole row of veritable classiques, that ranked as the best pieces of the festival : the monstrous Concord Sonata (1907/15) by Charles Ives was executed by Heather O'Donnell with a mischievous and brilliant severity."
Philharmonic Magazine, Moscow
The Alternativa Festival, Elena Dubinets
"A young American pianist, Heather O'Donnell, amazed with intense and precise playing... She won the audience over with fine intelligence and interpretative depth."
Seen and Heard Magazine, London
View from Rotterdamm, Peter Graham Woolf
"She played with easy mastery and very evident enjoyment a wide range of music. . .Her two recitals concluded with as fine an account of Ives's "Hawthorne" as you are likely to be lucky enough to encounter."
The Boston Globe
The Old Guard and Young Turks, Richard Dyer
"Heather O'Donnell gave a knockout performance that left the audience screaming. "
The Concord Journal
Ives Returns to Concord, Phyllis Hughes
January 1996 "O'Donnell's intuitive playing reached great depths. Her strength and mastery of these infamously difficult passages were indeed impressive."
Ligeti in Boston, Josiah Fisk
"All three performances were exceptional. . .Is there nothing Heather O'Donnell can't play?"