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West Michigan Symphony’s March “Beethoven and Blue Jeans” Concert to Feature Award-Winning Pianist Awadagin Pratt


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2013-02-27 20:00:02 - West Michigan Symphony will feature Naumberg International Piano Competition winner Awadagin Pratt at its Masterworks series concerts on Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16.

Contact: Carla Hill
West Michigan Symphony, 231.726.3231, ext. 22
or
Mary Ann Sabo
Sabo Public Relations, 616.485.1432

West Michigan Symphony’s March “Beethoven and Blue Jeans” Concert to Feature Award-Winning Pianist Awadagin Pratt

Muskegon, Michigan, February 27, 2013 –

Returning for its sixth year, the popular “Beethoven and Blue Jeans” performance will feature:
Randall Woolf’s “Shakedown,” with the composer in attendance for the dress rehearsal and two performances
Jan Sibelius’ Symphony No. 3, Op. 52. in C major
Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, Op. 73, “Emperor” in E flat major

More information, as well as expanded program notes with audio samples, is available online at the Symphony’s website. Both

concerts will be held in the majestic Frauenthal Center for Performing Arts in downtown Muskegon at 7:30 p.m.

Concertgoers are encouraged to join the orchestra and Music Director Scott Speck in wearing blue jeans for the evening.

On Wednesday, March 13, Pratt will be the featured guest at Muskegon Middle School, which will hold an assembly for middle school music students from 10-11 a.m. and allow them to meet the pianist and conductor. He will also lead a piano master class with three Grand Valley State University students from 4-6 p.m. on the Allendale campus.

“We are excited to welcome Awadagin Pratt to perform with the West Michigan Symphony,” Speck said. “He is a uniquely powerful musician and an unbelievably creative voice at the piano.

“His ability to dig deep into the heart of the music will produce a particularly thrilling performance of Beethoven’s most beloved concerto. His musicality is truly a force of nature.”

Pratt joins WMS on his current national tour, which also includes stops in New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia and other destinations. A native of Pittsburgh, Pratt began studying piano at the age of six. By the time he reached 16, he was studying piano, violin and conducting and became the first student at the Peabody Conservatory of Music to earn diplomas in each of these practice areas.

Pratt has performed numerous recitals throughout the United States, including performances at the Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center and Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. He has appeared with scores of symphonies and performed with summer festivals in Ravinia, Wolftrap, Aspen, the Hollywood Bowl and Tokyo.

As a conductor, Pratt has participated in the American Symphony Orchestra League and Conductors Guild workshops and the National Conducting Institute, where he worked closely with Leonard Slatkin and conducted the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center. He has also conducted the Toledo, New Mexico, Winston-Salem, Santa Fe and Prince George County Symphonies, the Concertante di Chicago and several orchestras in Japan.

“This concert features three very different pieces, and each is powerful in its own way,” Speck said. “Sibelius’ symphony paints breathtaking Finnish landscapes and captures an unmistakable nationalistic pride. Woolf’s ‘Shakedown’ is a perfect mirror of today’s frenetic sensibilities, with a lovely hint of Romantic nostalgia. And Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto is one of the most supremely majestic masterpieces ever composed.”

The concert will open with Randall Woolf’s “Shakedown,” a modern work composed in 1990. Woolf, a Detroit native, penned the piece for the ALEA III ensemble in residence at Boston University. According to Wolff, “Shakedown” is “very rhythmically charged with no relief from the rhythmic action, getting you into almost a techno-like groove.”

Woolf studied composition privately before earning his doctorate from Harvard University. His works, which like to mix classical and popular idioms, have been performed at Tanglewood, Bang on a Can, Twisted Tutu and by the Kronos Quartet, among others. He is a member of the Common Sense Composers Collective.

“I have had the great pleasure of performing many of Randy Woolf’s wild and eclectic mixes over the years, but I have always admired him from afar,” Speck explained. “How exciting it will be to have him with us at rehearsals and in the performances. You know, there are so many questions that I will never be able to ask Beethoven or Sibelius about their music, but I can – and will – ask Randy.”

Next, the Jan Sibelius Symphony No. 3, Op. 52. in C major begins with what sounds like a nervous, almost stuttering theme in the cellos and basses, which later takes on more of a dancing character. All of the themes in the symphony are original, however the second theme, the most lyrical, sounds as if it could have been a folksong.

This leads into another folk-like melody in the second movement, taken up by successive pairs of winds over very softly played – pianissimo – low brass and basses that are played pizzicato – by plucking the strings. The Scherzo, or finale, begins by taking on the nervousness of the opening movement, until building an unbroken harmonic tension until the final cadence some five minutes later.

The concert will close with Pratt featured in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, Op. 73, “Emperor” in E flat major. The concerto opens with a powerful orchestral chord, followed by a sweeping cadenza-like flourish by the piano solo. Only after two more orchestral chords interrupted by outbursts form the piano does the orchestra introduce the principal theme.

The movement is stormy and driving, with some harmonic ambiguity. The music that follows has all the characteristics of a cadenza, however, the composer – wanting to be sure that his ideas, not the performers, would prevail – annotated the piano score with the command – “Do not play a cadenza!”

"This concert is a ‘must-see’ event featuring a vault of treasures,” Speck said. “Not only will our performers and special guest dazzle you, but you’ll experience it in the best orchestra concert hall within 200 miles."

Single tickets for this concert are $15, $20, $35 and $45 and may be purchased online at www.westmichigansymphony.org; in person at the West Michigan Symphony Ticket Office, Suite 409 (4th floor) in the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts, 425 W. Western Ave., Muskegon; or by calling 231.726.3231. Student tickets are $5 for this concert but are not available online. College students must present a valid ID when they purchase tickets.

About West Michigan Symphony
As one of the few professional regional orchestras in Michigan, West Michigan Symphony has played a leading role in the region’s cultural community for more than 70 years. Founded as the West Shore Symphony Orchestra, WMS now serves a regional audience with eight pairs of concerts annually, along with dozens of educational and outreach activities for children and adults. WMS oversees operations for the West Michigan Youth Symphony. For more information, visit www.westmichigansymphony.org.

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Erin Nemastil
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