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Originally published October 26, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 26, 2007 at 2:00 AM

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Classical music

Flash and substance meet at the keyboard of Awadagin Pratt

With his dreadlocks and his penchant for bright-hued Versace shirts on the concert stage, pianist Awadagin Pratt can safely be called one-of-a-kind...

Seattle Times music critic

Classical-music previews

With his dreadlocks and his penchant for bright-hued Versace shirts on the concert stage, pianist Awadagin Pratt can safely be called one-of-a-kind among his concert-artist colleagues. Fortunately, all this flash is backed up by the solid excellence of Pratt's technical and interpretive skills at the keyboard: substance as well as style.

Now he's back in town for a Mozart concerto with the Seattle Symphony this weekend. Pratt (whose first name is pronounced ah-wah-DODGE-in) will perform Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 under the baton of guest maestro Douglas Boyd, who also conducts two Beethoven overtures (to "The Creatures of Prometheus" and "Coriolan"), and Schubert's tuneful Symphony No. 2. This time, maybe the Mainly Mozart series should be called "Partly Mozart."

When he is not at the piano in venues around the globe (from South Africa to Poland and Japan), Pratt keeps busy as artistic director of the Next Generation Festival (Lancaster, Penn.) and as an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati's celebrated College Conservatory of Music. In addition to his live performances, Pratt has been featured on several NPR radio shows and on a wide span of TV programs — from "Sesame Street" to "The Today Show," "Good Morning America" and PBS' "Live from the Kennedy Center." He always takes along his custom-made wood bench, in which the tall pianist sits extremely low to the stage (the stool is only 13 ½ inches high) — a choice that recalls the wooden bench favored by the brilliant and eccentric Glenn Gould.

Pratt's career was launched by wins at the 1992 Naumburg International Piano Competition and a 1994 Avery Fisher Career Grant, after studies at the University of Illinois and the Peabody Conservatory of Music, where he was the first student in the school's history to receive diplomas in three performance areas: piano, violin and conducting.

You'll find out a lot more about this fascinating artist on his Web site (www.awadagin.com), where there's a link to his blog (called "O-Wadablog") and some insights into Pratt's strong views about food, wine, travel and other subjects.

The conductor of these programs, Scottish-born Douglas Boyd, is music director of England's Manchester Camerata and also one of the "artistic partners" of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (which is run by a unique cadre of musicians who share directorial responsibilities). The busy conductor also is principal guest conductor of the City of London Sinfonia, and an artistic director of the Gardener Chamber Orchestra in Boston, as well as a founding member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (where he served as principal oboe).

Performances: 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Benaroya Hall; $17-$75 (206-215-4747, 866-833-4747 or www.seattlesymphony.org). Student and senior rush discount tickets, subject to availability, go on sale in person at the Seattle Symphony ticket office at 6 p.m. before evening performances and two hours before afternoon performances. Sunday's concert, by the way, is a "Musically Speaking" event, in which Boyd will comment on the music as well as conducting it. To make room for the commentary, the second Beethoven overture ("The Creatures of Prometheus") will be dropped from the Sunday program.

Also this weekend

The Seattle Choral Company launches its 26th season with founding director Fred Coleman leading his symphonic chorus in "Celtic Nights," celebrating the arrival of the Celtic new year. Featured with the singers will be the Irish ensemble Anúna, with director Michael McGlynn, and several guest artists (including harpist John Carrington, violinist/violist Marjorie Krans-

berg-Talvi, uilleann pipe player Tom Creegan, drummer Seamus Gague and the Scoil Rince Slieveloughane Irish Dancers. The repertoire includes traditional Irish songs and newer works, including a piece by Abbie Betinis.

Performances: 8 p.m. today and Saturday in St. Mark's Cathedral, 1245 10th Ave. E., Seattle; $10-$25 (206- 363-1100 or www.seattlechoralcompany.org).

Keeping it Simple

The Simple Measures series of multigenre concerts in intimate locations will open with Seattle cello star Joshua Roman (principal of the Seattle Symphony) in a "Cool Shade" program that also features saxophonist Michael Brockman, guitarist Chris Spencer, pianist Mark Salman, violinist Jennifer Caine, violist Mara Gearman and harpsichordist Jillon Stoppels Dupree. The concept: classical (Telemann, Mozart) meets jazz (Ellington, Brubeck), with everybody demonstrating some improvisational chops (including Dupree at the harpsichord).

There are three chances to hear this show: 3 p.m. Saturday, Q Café, 3223 15th Ave. W.; 7 p.m. Sunday, Northgate Community Center, 10510 Fifth Ave. N.E.; and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Kirkland Women's Club, 407 First St., Kirkland. Advance tickets: $10-$25 (206-853-5672 or www.simplemeasures.org). Tickets at the door: $12-$27.

Daniel Pearl World Music Days

Created in response to the 2002 kidnapping and murder of journalist (and musician) Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, this international network of concerts held each October will be represented locally by a 3 p.m. concert Sunday in Shorecrest Performing Arts Center. There the Seattle Civic Band, Rain City Women's Chorus and Seattle Peace Chorus will unite for a program called "Joy, Peace and Harmony." The master of ceremonies will be Jack Tingstad; Jo-Ann Christen is the conductor. Donations at the door will be gratefully accepted (info at www.seattlecivicband.org or 206-282-5471).

Melinda Bargreen: mbargreen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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