Awadagin Pratt is among the nice and distinctive American pianists and conductors of our time. Presently a professor of piano on the College of Cincinnati School Conservatory of Music — on prime of his lively performing schedule — his resume is lengthy sufficient for a few lifetimes. He was the primary triple main on the Peabody Conservatory of Music, getting levels for violin, piano and conducting. He is significantly well-known for his Bach. (All Issues Thought-about host Arun Rath’s favourite? His takes on Beethoven.)
Rath spoke with Pratt forward of his efficiency on the Boston Symphony Orchestra on Thursday, Sept. 22 — Pratt’s first look with the orchestra, the place he’ll play a chunk that was written for him. It’s the primary night time of the BSO’s new season.
What follows is a frivolously edited transcript.
Arun Rath: So earlier than we discuss concerning the live performance tonight and this piece of music that was written for you, I need to discuss a multi-media piece involving movie and efficiency that was not too long ago carried out. Are you able to inform us about “Black in America?” What that portrays?
Awadagin Pratt: Wow, okay. Properly, that piece I wrote initially as a podcast after the homicide of George Floyd. Within the media, there have been allusions to criminality, or their previous arrests or one thing of George Floyd and the allusions to the drug seller boyfriend of Breonna Taylor. And each sufferer was hooked up to criminalities ultimately, as if that they had one way or the other deserved it for being that near — I do not know what.
And so it occurred to me that, as a result of that’s so pervasive within the media, that folks do not know or do not suppose or usually are not conscious that folks like me, who haven’t any attachments to criminality, have the sorts of interactions with the police that I’ve had. And so I needed to inform that story. In order that the audiences of my concert events, the donors, my mates — I do not actually discuss these things with my mates. Simply folks in my orbit would know that the amount and nature of the interactions that I’ve had with the police over my lifetime.
And so forth the podcast, it began with music after which I talked for a very long time. And I am going into features of regulation and the Supreme Courtroom choices about these varied points. After which there’s the center: Liszt’s “Funérailles” performs. After which I discuss once more. After which there was this little, Brandenburg 5 bookends the piece.
A pal of mine requested if it might be carried out, and that is most likely concerning the sixth or seventh efficiency I’ve carried out. I did a pair the final two weeks. And we had a movie commissioned for the center, so the place Liszt’s “Funérailles” performs —
Rath: That is the piece by Franz Liszt? And it is funeral music?
Pratt: Sure. It was written for 3 mates of his who died in an rebellion in Hungary, and as a extra memorial-type piece.
And so Alrick Brown, who’s at NYU, made a movie to accompany the music, which is cool as a result of it often goes the opposite approach round. Nevertheless it’s highly effective, it is actually highly effective. So I carry out both this Bach that I’m really enjoying right here, the A significant Concerto, or ”Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, First Motion,” relying on the place I am enjoying it as the primary piece. Then I discuss, after which the movie performs, and I discuss, after which ends, now, with the final motion from Messiaen’s “Quartet for the Finish of Time.”
Nevertheless it simply goes — I imply, I used to be jailed in a single day once I was a pupil at Peabody. I used to be stopped by an officer for operating down the road. In order that’s type of the crux of the central motion.
Rath: Wow. Yeah, and I am sorry, I did not imply to get you off stability by asking about that, however I used to be studying about this simply earlier than. And in the entire introduction, once I was itemizing off your resume, I did not embrace, “Black man who grew up in America.” And I used to be simply studying about how you bought grabbed by the police once you’re operating to a music class. It simply appears — I do not know. I imply, it is not unimaginable, nevertheless it’s simply type of a staggering factor to consider.
Pratt: Yeah. The truth that it’s not unimaginable is staggering.
Rath: And, effectively, the opposite piece of music you talked about was Messiaen’s “Quartet for the Finish of Time,” which is a very haunting piece. He wrote it when he was in a Nazi jail camp, proper?
Pratt: Yeah, he was within the jail camp. I play the final one, which is for violin and piano. And it is only a heartbreaking piece of music.
Rath: Is that this piece one thing that might be carried out once more together with the movie? This type of multimedia manufacturing?
Pratt: Yeah, I’ve carried out it not completely — possibly it is completely, to this point — on faculty campuses. I play the music half with pupil performers, which is sweet for the varsity and college students. So yeah, it has a life that I did not foresee once I initially composed it.
Rath: We positively want to speak concerning the music we’ll hear tonight. There is a Bach piece, however I actually need to hear about this piece that was purchased by Jessie Montgomery. This was written for you?
Pratt: Sure, it was written for me. The piece was commissioned by the Artwork of the Piano Basis and 9 co-commissioning orchestras. It had its premiere with Hilton Head Symphony on the finish of March, April. And we’re have performances with St. Louis, Kansas Metropolis, Milwaukee, Colorado, Indianapolis, Denver — I am not going to cowl all of them.
So this would be the tenth efficiency. And the piece could be very quote-unquote “viewers pleasant.” However past that, persons are moved by it. So it is actually that is been gratifying to to carry out.
Rath: And inform us a bit extra concerning the work and the type of sound that it has. What’s Jessie Montgomery’s compositional model? It is referred to as “Rounds”?
Pratt: It is referred to as “Rounds.” It’s for piano and string orchestra. And, you already know, Jessie’s a violinist, so so far as the strings are involved, they like enjoying it.
It is also idiomatic for the piano. And there is an interaction of the fabric, I might say, a lot as the identical as numerous Bach, the place materials will get moved round by the voices — and I see numerous Bach as a result of it’s not the case on this concerto that I am enjoying essentially. However there is a similarity there as a result of typically I’ve what’s thought of numerous materials, however I principally have this type of accompanying determine in sure elements of the piece. It is type of onerous to explain, however the tune, per se, is that this “bee-bum-bee-bum” — this type of pleasant determine. And I’ve these operating notes by that. And there are a number of totally different periods that recur, after which there is a center part that is actually hauntingly lovely.
Rath: That sounds superior. It is at all times thrilling to listen to new music. Awadagin Pratt, it has been such a pleasure talking with you. I need to thanks, and likewise simply as a longtime fan, thanks for a lot nice music over time.
Pratt: That is very type of you. Thanks. Completely satisfied to speak with you, and this is to extra.
Rath: Awadagin Pratt is a conductor, pianist, a recording artist and professor of piano on the College of Cincinnati School Conservatory of Music. He is performing tonight with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Jessie Montgomery. That is GBH’s All Issues Thought-about.