Awadagin Pratt, a pianist who first appeared on the international concert scene in the early 1990s when he won the prestigious Naumburg Piano Competition and, a couple of years later, was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant, came to Sarasota this past Sunday to appear in Faith Lutheran’s Community Outreach Concert Series.
Faith Lutheran Church, at 7750 Beneva Road, has recently started an important series of concerts with an impressive roster of performers this year, including two members of the Boston Symphony, a trumpeter from the U.S. Army Band, the talented young singer Maria Wirries and pianist Joseph Holt, the recently named artistic director of Gloria Musicae.
In addition, the church has been able, thanks to the generosity of some of its members, to purchase a magnificent 9-foot Steinway concert grand and a new console for the pipe organ, transforming the sanctuary into an ideal intimate venue for concerts and recitals.
Pratt chose a daunting program that he will repeat this week in Carnegie Hall’s smaller Weill Recital Hall, in New York City. It ran the gamut of works from Baroque (Bach), to contemporary (Lera Auerbach), plus major pieces by Schumann, Beethoven and Liszt.
The Auerbach pieces — four preludes from her Opus 41 — were short studies of ascending and descending intervals, from open fifths to minor ninths, chord clusters and an occasional allusion to the Dies Irae. Like Pratt’s other interpretations, the performance was somewhat muddied by over-pedaling and a hyper-romanticized style that left little room for the clarity and transparency needed stylistically in Bach and Beethoven.
But the important part of the afternoon was the packed-to-the-gills sanctuary, the new Steinway grand and the fact that Sarasota has a new venue for concerts. Pratt, who recently received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Johns Hopkins, certainly put the new piano through its paces, and we look forward to hearing other artists in this beautiful Sarasota venue. Here’s to keeping the faith!