ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Welcome to the many lives of Awadagin Pratt.
Pratt is a professor of music and artist-in-residence at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, the chair of its department, the artistic director of the World Piano Competition and founder-artistic director of the Art of the Piano Festival.
His other lives include several not insignificant pieces, such as giving recitals with El Paso-based cellist Zuill Bailey and guest-performing with and conducting some of the major symphony orchestras in the world.
Pratt, a former Albuquerque resident, will be the guest pianist with the New Mexico Philharmonic Saturday, April 12 in the orchestra’s final Classics concert of the 2013-14 season.
Pratt and the orchestra will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major (“Emperor”).
Several weeks ago, Pratt said he had each of his students learn a single movement of one of Beethoven’s piano concertos.
“It’s really fascinating to hear Beethoven’s development of the concerto genre,” Pratt said in a phone interview.
“You hear how it sort of changed from being alternating back-and-forth material between the orchestra and piano, to piano accompanying the orchestra a lot, and then the final development that’s in the Fifth Concerto.”
That concerto shows the expansion of the first movement with its noble opening cadenza.
“It’s a great statement about what is to transpire. The first movement is monumental,” he said.
The second movement may be Pratt’s favorite. The orchestra opens and it is followed by the piano’s entrance, which is unrelated to what the orchestra was playing, he said.
“I think of (the piano entrance) as dawn, and the beginnings of the rays (of the sun) coming across the mountain. … You can’t put it in a time or place yet it is,” Pratt said.
“It’s Impressionistic in creating a picture. And then the piano comes in to play a beautiful melody with the orchestra.”
In all piano concertos, there’s nothing quite like it, he said. And the final movement he described as a romp with its amazing static and ecstatic qualities.
Pratt said he first played the “Emperor” concerto in the mid-1990s, though he has never recorded any of Beethoven’s piano concertos.
“So it’s definitely one of my things to record should the opportunity arise,” he said.
There is yet another music-related activity coming up for him. Next month, Pratt will go to Israel to judge the 40th anniversary Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition.
On the same New Mexico Philharmonic program is Franz Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1 and Ottorino Respighi’s symphonic poem “Pines of Rome.”
Conducting the philharmonic is Uriel Segal, who is the principal guest conductor of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.