Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TheNewsTribune.com: Awadagin Pratt has CD coming out with Zuill Bailey in March & CD with Harlem Quartet in April

[Awadagin Pratt]

The African American classical pianist Awadagin Pratt, whose website is http://www.awadagin.com/, has been featured by AfriClassical numerous times.

Section: Music
March 18, 2011
Editor’s note: 10 Questions is an occasional series asking prominent artists about their art.
“When Awadagin Pratt won the Naumberg International Piano Competition in 1992, he wasn’t just your average concert pianist launching a career. He was, at 25, also a gifted and ranked tennis player. He was the first to graduate from Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory in three equal areas: piano, violin and conducting. And he was the first African American pianist to win the Naumberg. Nearly 20 years later, the man who began music lessons as a 6-year-old in Pittsburgh, with encouragement from his social-work professor mother and physics professor father, is still impressing audiences with his profound musicality and an idiosyncratic dress sense that involves striped shirts and now-famous dreadlocks.

"Combining concert touring with being artist-in-residence and associate professor at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Pratt also supports music education for kids through his scholarship foundation and educational concerts, and still finds time to blog and play some tennis. In a phone interview from Cincinnati, Pratt answered our questions about music, food and turning 45:

So, you just turned 45 last week, right? Happy birthday! Are you finding your playing is changing as you get older?
Well, in one part you’re always trying to get better, so you’re always changing. But also different things mean differently to you at different times. Things that were important to me 20 years ago I don’t think are important now. I listen to old recordings and I recognize myself, even though I’m teaching those pieces differently from how I used to play them. It’s interesting.

You began piano at age 6. What were your biggest influences?
I had good teachers – my violin teacher through high school was a very broad musician, and my piano teacher was excellent. The more important influences came later, like my violin teacher at the University of Illinois, and my three piano teachers there, and at Peabody. It’s hard to pin (any one thing) down.”

“Tell me about the program you’ll be playing at the Pantages Theater.
I start off with Beethoven’s Sonata no. 31 op. 110, that’s his second-to-last sonata with that beautiful and profound closing. Then I’m doing a little-known piece – one that nobody knows. Even I only just found it a couple of years ago. It’s a piece by Robert Schumann, 'Variations and Etudes on a theme of Beethoven,' that was only even published in 1976. It’s really wonderful and exciting to find. Then I’m playing my transcription of the Bach Passacaglia and Fugue for organ. It’s the piece I played last time I was at the White House. It’s a knuckle-buster. In the second half, the Liszt Sonata.”

What’s coming up for you?
Well, apart from the Brahms CD (with cellist Zuill Bailey, releasing late March) there’s a recording coming out in April with the Harlem String Quartet of piano trios by (contemporary American) composer Judith Lang Zaimont. It’s cool stuff.

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