Virtuoso Pianist Awadagin Pratt Performs, Teaches as 2011 Hume Fellow
Awadagin Pratt, renowned virtuoso pianist and Occidental College's Hume Fellow in the Performing Arts this fall, gave a music history lecture, taught a master class, and capped his October 27-29 residency with a solo recital of classical and jazz works in Thorne Hall.
The musician is on a national tour, and his October 29 recital at the College was his only performance in California.
"Awadagin Pratt is one of the great American musicians of his generation, and Occidental was very proud to host him," said Irene M. Girton, associate dean and head of the music department at the College.
Every two years, Occidental is able to bring a well-known and exciting classical music artist or group to campus through the G. William Hume Visiting Arts Fellowship. Opera star Frederica von Stade and percussionist Evelyn Glennie are former Hume fellows. The fellowship is funded through the G. William Hume Trust, named for Bill Hume '50, a former College dean of students, professor, and director of Thorne Hall.
Pratt's star power reaches beyond the borders of the United States. He has performed in numerous sold-out concerts in Europe and Japan, and he has played command performances at the White House three times: twice for President Bill Clinton and then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, and once for President Barack Obama '83 and First Lady Michelle Obama. In addition, the artist is a noted orchestral conductor and professor at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music.
Reviews of Pratt over the years have lauded musical interpretations for their "fluid energy," "singing line," "technical élan," and "tsunami of sound." His solo recital in Thorne Hall did not disappoint; Pratt's lyricism as well as his technical prowess were on full display when he performed on the College's 9-foot Steinway grand.
For instance, his performance of Liszt's formidable Sonata in B Minor, S. 178, was described this way in an Eagle Rock Patch review: "Liszt's dramatic moments were dispatched to full effect at the hands of Pratt, whose seasoned technique was amply equal to the requirements of Liszt's pyrotechnics."
"Yet, for all of Pratt's technical prowess, it was his subtleties of musicality that captured the most attention," the review continued. "Sudden, unforeshadowed pauses at harmonically tense moments left audience members holding their breath, as indicated by the spontaneous chorus of sighs accompanying the ensuing resolution points."
The recital's second half featured François Couperin's "Les Barricades Mystérieuses," a work originally composed for the clavichord, and "Widmung" ("Dedication" in German), an ardent piece by Romantic composer Robert Schumann. Pratt also performed several modern works, including the dazzling "Nocturne for the Left Hand Alone" by noted American jazz composer Fred Hersch. As an encore, Pratt played Hersch's contemplative "Valentine."
Earlier in the week, he conducted a well-attended master class in Bird Studio, teaching three Oxy students: Antonina Paus-Weiler '14, Joseph Wei '13, and Andrew Chang '13. Paus-Weiler played Toccata in E-Flat Minor, a popular solo piano work by Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian. Wei performed the second movement of Beethoven's Sonata in E Major, Opus 9, and Chang performed the first movement of Sonata in F Minor, Op. 57, also by Beethoven.
Pratt's detailed instruction-to bring out the singing line in a particularly thorny section, for instance, or to make the rhythmic drive of a musical passage more forceful-were leavened with humorous asides and laughter.
Pratt won first prize at the prestigious Naumburg International Piano Competition in 1992, and two years later was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant, given by the Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Artist Program to instrumentalists with great potential for solo careers. In 2008, Pratt received the Peabody Distinguished Alumnus Award for his many achievements.
His previous U.S. concerts have included performances at the Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, and the Hollywood Bowl. He has also performed with many symphony orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic. As a conductor, Pratt has led many orchestras, including the National Symphony and two orchestras in Japan. Represented by CM Artists, he has recorded eight albums. His most recent are "Zaimont: Eternal Evolution" (Navona Records) with the Harlem Quartet, and "Brahms: Works for Piano and Cello" (Telarc) with cellist Zuill Bailey.