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Awadagin Pratt and the
St Lawrence String Quartet
play Bach -
reviewed by JOHN BELL YOUNG

'Mr Pratt should really take some time off to study ...'

Awadagin Pratt and the St Lawrence String Quartet play Bach (c) 2002 Angel Records

In this eclectic collection, the pianist Awadagin Pratt assumes the mantle of chamber music collaborator. In recent years, the versatile Mr Pratt, who has also taken on conducting, teams up with the energetic St Lawrence String Quartet.

Listening to this disc, one is left with the uncomfortable impression, beyond the fact that Bach composed it all (with the sole exception of a transcription of a choral prelude by Busoni), that no programming concept informed the production. Rather, it seems designed to randomly set forth a program less conducive to serious listening than to the provision of background music en route to the office, or while navigating an escalator at Macy's.

Even so, that hardly addresses the performances themselves. Mr Pratt plays well enough, with a kind of blithe, even thoughtless simplicity that one often hears from first year conservatory students who have not yet bothered to examine and work out the unique vocabulary that informs baroque performance practice. That said, Mr Pratt has a great deal to learn about phrasing in this repertoire, to speak nothing of ornamentation, cumulative rhythm and especially the subtleties of affective articulation. For now, his performances are an interpretive mess, getting lost in every manner of generality and cliché, while sporting an all too heavy foot on the damper pedal. Mr Pratt's bland, and wholly naïve equalization of every stand of the counterpoint, while pounding out chordal passages, betrays his breathtaking naiveté. Awkward transitions, amateurish accents on downbeats, and innumerable rhythmic inaccuracies throughout illuminate Mr Pratt's technical insecurities to an extent that untrained ears might not even notice.

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Copyright © 13 November 2002 John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA


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