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The St Lawrence String Quartet, which likewise demonstrates no interest in the exigencies of baroque aesthetics, opting instead for plenty of vibrato and a vocabulary of gesture more suitable for Brahms, provides a dutiful accompaniment to Mr Pratt's misinformed, often unintelligible, stream-of-consciousness Bach. Only when on their own in Wachet Auf -- and presumably without Mr Pratt's schoolboyish influence -- does the Quartet come close to imparting something more idiosyncratic. Otherwise, their heavy-handed account of the opening movement of the F minor Concerto No 3 in F minor hopelessly compromises articulation, proving an object lesson in precisely how not to play Bach. How awkwardly Mr Pratt tumbles through it, giving neither weight, nor affective shape, nor even consistency to any one of its motivic particles en route to the construction of a more complex, larger edifice. The deftly navigated interior dialogue that should be the Largo becomes instead nothing more varied or rhythmically defined than a popular rendition of Raindrops are Falling on Your Head. Indeed, a great performance of the latter would be eminently more satisfying than Mr Pratt's tiresome and wholly unsophisticated readings here.

Mr Pratt should really take some time off to study, immersing himself not only in contemporary sources and treatises, but in the writings of such modern scholars as Harnoncourt, Neumann, Rosenblum and others. Thus renewed and informed, perhaps he will revisit this rich repertoire from a more musically responsible perspective.

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


Awadagin Pratt, The St Lawrence String Quartet - Play Bach

57227 2002 Angel Records

Awadagin Pratt, piano; St Lawrence String Quartet: Geoff Nuttall, violin, Barry Shiffman, violin, Leley Robertson, viola, Marina Hoover, cello; Stephen Tramontazzi, bass; Demarre McGill, flute

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No 5; Keyboard Concertos 4 and 5; Wachet Auf, Ruft Uns Die Stimme; Contrapunctus No 1




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