Pianist Awadagin Pratt isn't a particularly introspective or subtle musician, but his powerful keyboard attacks and insouciant manner let him quickly connect with an audience. That's one reason he was hired by Ravinia for one of its "Classical SoundBytes" extravaganzas, which speed through excerpts from perennial favorites in about an hour and a half without intermission. Pratt, whose father emigrated from Sierra Leone, is one of only a handful of African-Americans in the world of classical instrumentalists. Intensely absorbed onstage, his dreadlocks bobbing to the music, he's an unabashed showman with a predilection for flashy late-19th-century warhorses, and for this all-Russian program with the Ravinia Festival Orchestra he'll play the tumultuous finale from Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto no. 1. (Also on the program are movements from violin concerti by Glazunov, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich; the soloist is Rachel Barton.) Pratt, who graduated from the Peabody Conservatory with degrees in piano, violin, and conducting, will give a solo recital the next night, a stamina-testing program that includes Brahms's Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, and Pratt's own arrangement of Bach's monumental Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor. Monday, 8 PM, Pavilion (Classical SoundBytes), and Tuesday, 8 PM, Martin Theatre (recital), Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100. TED SHEN
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Frans Schellekers.