Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Meditation: Awadagin Pratt performs at the White House

I was so pleased to find--finally--a video recording featuring my favorite American pianist, Awadagin Pratt. In this one, he's playing for President and Mrs. Obama, along with their elder daughter daughters Malia and Sasha, in November 2009 (how did I miss this?!) The piece is J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582. Toward the end, you'll recognize that ominous-sounding theme Keith Olbermann uses in his Worst Person in the World segments.

Awadagin throws in a final, witty flourish, too: the Hail to the Chief riff. (I'm certain no subtext was intended!)

Back in the 90's, I was channel-surfing and happened upon Awadagin playing piano (I'm thinking it was probably on CBS Sunday Morning). I was transfixed and completely bowled over by his passionate style and unusual, off-the-beaten-path selections (Franz Liszt's Funérailles [Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, No. VII], for heaven's sake, and do have your Kleenex ready for that one), so I set out to find a recording of his music, something that was considerably more difficult to do in the pre-Intertubes days.

On my next birthday, my dear friend Cynthia, who was an amazing finder of All Things Unfindable and who passed away in 1999, surprised me with Awadagin's first CD, A Long Way From Normal. I can't listen to it without crying--especially not the aforementioned Funérailles--but it remains my favorite (and I have bought everything he's recorded since).

Awadagin is an extraordinarily gifted musician--he was the first student in the history of the Peabody Conservatory of Music to receive diplomas in piano, violin, and conducting--and if he's ever performing in a city near yours, you must do whatever it takes to get yourself tickets. I've had the privilege of attending two of his concerts in Florida: he's brilliant.

***In closing, I'd like to wish dear TRex a very happy birthday. Cheers to you, my friend!***

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