© 2023 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Pianist Awadagin Pratt plays Sarasota as part of SCA's Great Performers Series

Rob Davidson
Pianist Awadagin Pratt stands next to a Yamaha piano

The Naumburg International Piano Competition winner is coming to town Wednesday as part of Sarasota Concert Association's Great Performers Series.

Pianist Awadagin Pratt was the first African American pianist to win the Naumburg International Piano Competition.

He has been busy since then, teaching, giving concerts, serving as artistic director of the Art of the Piano Festival, commissioning music and judging competitions. As well as conducting and performing at the White House, during the Clinton and Obama Administrations.

On Wednesday, he'll be in Sarasota playing a variety of music, including a work by Peteris Vasks: Castillo Interior, which was commissioned by the Art of the Piano Festival as part of the Still Point music project.

It was designed as a musical companion to T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, specifically, these words from Burnt Norton:

Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

Pratt recorded the seven works on an album that will be released in June and has been performing them in concerts across the U.S.

His program at the Riverview Performing Arts Center includes music by Philip Glass, Vasks, Couperin, Hersch, Rachmaninoff, Chopin and Tchaikovsky. The second half will be a work by Franz Lizst.

"It's one continuously played movement. But there are arguments that there are seven sections to it, that are represented by different kinds of mood areas. But it's one of the all-time great pieces, that's full of warmth and tenderness, plenty of pianistic virtuosity, but there's a full embrace of humanity in this piece," Pratt said.

The Still Point project was born out of the pandemic. Another project Pratt has worked on, a documentary, Awadagin Pratt: Black in America, will air on PBS stations, it's something that started in response to the murder of George Floyd.

It's also a project Pratt has performed live with music, what he calls "the story of my interactions with police." Pratt said "there's always in the media an attachment to the criminality of the victim and I'm somebody with no attachment to criminality."

This year, the Art of the Piano Festival will be starting the Nina Simone Piano Competition for African American Pianists in June.

While Pratt said he has "an obvious interest in seeing more people like him on concert stages," he said the "burden of diversity on concert stages lies with concert presenters and orchestras." But he tries to help as much as he can.

Pratt is the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Professor of Piano and Artist-in-Residence. He will be retiring soon from UC soon and being working as Professor of Piano at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music this summer.

I love telling stories about my home state. And I hope they will help you in some way and maybe even lift your spirits.
WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.