World-renowned concert pianist Awadagin Pratt will join the Symphony to perform Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement at the Symphony’s Season Debut on September 25 & 26, replacing Andrew Tyson who was slated to perform Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

Awadagin Pratt. Photo Credit: Rob Davidson
Awadagin Pratt. Photo Credit: Rob Davidson
Awadagin Pratt. Photo Credit: Rob Davidson
Photo: Awadagin Pratt. Photo Credit: Rob Davidson

Born in Pittsburgh, Awadagin Pratt entered the University of Illinois at the age of 16 where he studied piano, violin, and conducting. He subsequently enrolled at the Peabody Conservatory of Music where he became the first student in the school’s history to receive diplomas in three performance areas – piano, violin and conducting. In 1992 Mr. Pratt won the Naumburg International Piano Competition and two years later was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant. Since then, he has played numerous recitals throughout the US including performances at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall and the NJ Performing Arts Center. His many orchestral performances include appearances with the New York Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra and the Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Baltimore, St. Louis, National, Detroit and New Jersey symphonies among many others. Mr. Pratt is currently a Professor of Piano at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. He also served as the Artistic Director of the World Piano Competition in Cincinnati and is currently the Artistic Director of the Art of the Piano Festival at CCM.

Awadagin Pratt will perform Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement, a lyrical and lively piece which evokes Price’s experiences as a Black woman raised in the post-Civil War South. Florence Beatrice Smith Price (April 9, 1887 – June 3, 1953) was the first African-American female composer to have a symphonic composition performed by a major American symphony orchestra when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed her Symphony in E Minor on June 15, 1933. The Piano Concerto in One Movement was premiered in Chicago in 1934 with Price herself as the soloist. Though it was well-received, at some point the original orchestration disappeared. In 2011, composer Trevor Weston created a reconstruction from a two-piano manuscript and a few remaining instrumental parts, which was the only version available until earlier this year.

Awadagin Pratt. Photo Credit: Robert Reck
Photo: Awadagin Pratt. Photo Credit: Robert Reck

In 2019 a manuscript of the original orchestration surfaced at an auction. After pitching the project to the Philadelphia Orchestra, two Cornell University music professors, Tamara Acosta and Stephen Spinelli, worked with the Orchestra’s music librarian, Nicole Jordan, to resolve any discrepancies or errors in order to restore the original orchestration. In February 2021, Price’s original orchestration of the Piano Concerto in One Movement was performed for the first time in decades by the Philadelphia Orchestra with Michelle Cann as soloist.

These concerts mark the Des Moines Symphony’s first performance of Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement, as well as the first time the DMSO has performed any work by Florence Price.

The concert opens with Corigliano’s celebratory Promenade Overture. Beethoven’s Egmont Overture depicts the victory over oppression of Goethe’s tragic hero, and rounds out the first half of the concert along with the Price Piano Concerto. After intermission, Beethoven’s ominous four-note opening motif, often considered the musical manifestation of “fate knocking at the door,” opens his gripping, impassioned Fifth Symphony, opening the Symphony’s 84th Season with the dramatic triumph and power of this masterpiece.