Isabelle O’Connell



Described by the New Yorker as “the young Irish piano phenom”, Dublin-born and New York City-based pianist Isabelle O’Connell has a growing international career that has taken her across four continents. As soloist and chamber musician she has performed around the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy,
U.K. and Ireland. Receiving a standing ovation at her New York Debut recital at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in January 2002, the New York Concert Review wrote:
“She has the technical prowess… and a spirit and intelligence to bring it all together.”

Isabelle made her début as concerto soloist at the National Concert Hall, Dublin in 1999. She has performed with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland under conductors William Eddins, Gerhard Markson and Gavin Maloney. She recently recorded Kevin Volans’ Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Winds with the NSO for future release on the Lyric FM label.

Isabelle O’Connell has a reputation for being a dynamic interpreter and energetic advocate of music by 20th and 21st century composers,  regularly commissioning and premiering new works. Her debut solo album RESERVOIR was released in 2010 to critical acclaim and features solo piano music by nine contemporary Irish composers.  Isabelle is co-founder of Grand Band, New York’s new music piano sextet, described by the NY Times as: "six of the finest, busiest pianists active in New York's contemporary-classical scene”.

She made her Lincoln Center debut at Alice Tully Hall performing a score for silent film by Jurgen Simpson in 2011. In 2007, Isabelle was co-Artistic Director of “New Music, New Ireland, New York”, a concert that showcased contemporary Irish composers at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall. In 2005 she performed at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall in a concert of music by John Adams, conducted by the composer himself. The New York Times described it as “a zesty account…the ensemble played the piece brilliantly”. In 2006 she performed at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, USA, with composer/singer Meredith Monk and members of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Isabelle also has a particular interest in music involving extended piano techniques and is often invited to give masterclasses and workshops on the topic.

As a chamber musician, Isabelle often performs with the CRASH ensemble, joining them on tours of Australia and the United States and performing at the Canberra International Chamber Music Festival, Sydney Conservatoire, Kennedy Center, Le Poisson Rouge in New York and the Reich Effect Festival, Ireland. She has also performed with Alarm Will Sound at Duke University in North Carolina and Denver, Colorado and with Ergodos ensemble at Issue Project Room in New York.

She has performed at festivals in Europe and the U.S. including the Pablo Casals Festival (France), Norfolk Chamber Music Festival (USA), Mannes Contemporary Music Festival (USA), Belfast Festival (N. Ireland), Sligo New Music Festival (Ireland), Waterford New Music Week (Ireland) and the West Cork Chamber Music Festival (Ireland). In 2003 Isabelle gave a solo recital at the John Field Room in Dublin to benefit Amnesty International’s Irish section and the global struggle for human rights. Isabelle was invited to do a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada from 2003 – 2004 where she collaborated with various artists including the New Zealand String Quartet. More recently she has also worked with Grammy award-winning vocalist Susan McKeown, playing on her album Singing in the Dark.

In addition to winning an award from Artists International in 2001, Isabelle was the recipient of the Tibor Paul Medal, the 1998 Mabel Swainson Pianoforte Award at the Feis Ceoil (which led to her debut recital at the John Field Room in Dublin) and the Ulster Bank Music Foundation Piano Award (making a television appearance on the “Late Late Show”). Some of her other awards have included a Fulbright scholarship (1999), Bank of Ireland Millennium Scholarship (2000), John F. Kennedy scholarship (1999-2002), Music Network Touring awards and multiple awards from the Irish Arts Council and Culture Ireland.

Isabelle has appeared on television and radio on both sides of the Atlantic, including WNYC, WQXR, WFMT Chicago, WFMU, BBC3, RTE and TV3. Her concerto and recital performances have also been broadcast live on Lyric FM radio.

Isabelle studied with Nina Svetlanova at the Manhattan School of Music graduating with a Masters degree in 2001. She subsequently studied with Zitta Zohar in New York. Her earlier studies took place at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin (Reamonn Keary, Therese Fahy) where she received her B.A. in Music Performance in 1999. Isabelle is currently on the piano and musicianship faculty at the Diller-Quaile School of Music and the Masters School, NY. She is a former faculty member of the Manhattan School of Music Pre-College Division and the Lucy Moses School.

© Copyright Isabelle O’Connell 2008-2013