April 17, 2024
Annapolis, US 65 F

Awadagin Pratt and Nicky Sohn Headline ASO’s Roman Festivals Concert

The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra will present Roman Festivals, the fifth Masterworks concert of the orchestra’s 62nd season. The concert will be held Friday, April 12th and Saturday, April 13th at Maryland Hall in Annapolis, Maryland, as well as Sunday, April 14th at the Music Center at Strathmore. The concert features the world première of a composition by contemporary composer Nicky Sohn, as well as the award-winning pianist Awadagin Pratt.

ASO Artistic Director José Luis Novo has, for the entirety of his nineteen-year tenure with the organization, sought to bring some of the best guest artists in the world to Annapolis. Some of these include Denyse Graves, Midori, Steven Isserlis, Jon Nakamatsu, Wu Man, James Ehnes, Olga Kern and Lynn Harrell.  Inclusive of his efforts to bring exceptional artistic talent to the state’s capital, he has also sought to highlight diverse artists in the symphony’s performances. Examples include pianists Stewart Goodyear, clarinetist Anthony McGill,  trumpetist Byron Stripling, harpist Charles Overton; sopranos Kishna Davis and Janice Chandler-Eteme, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, baritone Kenneth Overton, and the Morgan State University Choir. With inclusion and diversity as a lighthouse objective, ASO performances have included the nation’s foremost composers and musicians whose backgrounds represent our nation boldly, proudly, and with immense talent. Michael Thomas Fumai, a native Hawai’ian, and Nicky Sohn, who is South Korean, are emerging composers chosen to write the first two instances of a multi-year co-commissioning project in partnership with Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music (GFLCAM). Masterworks V will be the second instance of the GFLCAM co-commissioning première. 

Composer Nicky Sohn will present her Symphony No. 1. The piece illustrates that the most personal of experiences often resonate with what is universal. “The symphony’s narrative reflects a quintessential truth of life: while we cannot reclaim the past, we can find solace and hope somewhere in our own memory. It reminds us that in times of illness, we yearn for health, and during the long, gray winters, our hearts await the first of May. In the same vein as Berlioz’s symphonic journey, this work is a tribute to the past, a reflection of the present, and an ode to the future. With the passing of one thing comes another. With the loss of an envisioned future there will be another dream to be had. With old dreams and new hopes in mind, Symphony No. 1 paints an auditory canvas that calls for introspection, transformation, and the enduring spirit of eternal renewal.”

Selected as one of the “Cool 100” by Houston CityBook Magazine, alongside icons like Simone Biles and Megan Thee Stallion, composer Nicky Sohn stands as a versatile and sought-after talent across the United States, Europe, and Asia. Characterized by her jazz-inspired, rhythmically driven themes, Sohn’s work has received international praise for being “undoubtedly the crowd pleaser of the evening, deserving a permanent place in the orchestral repertoire” (YourObserver), being “dynamic and full of vitality” (The Korea Defense Daily), having “colorful orchestration” (NewsBrite), and for its “elegant wonder” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), among many others.

Awadagin Pratt is acclaimed for his musical insight and intensely involving performances in recital and with symphony orchestras. Born in Pittsburgh, Awadagin Pratt began studying piano at the age of six. Three years later he also began studying violin. At the age of 16 he entered the University of Illinois 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 recognition of this achievement and for his work in the field of classical music, Mr. Pratt received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Johns Hopkins University. A favorite at college and university performing arts series, Mr. Pratt participates in numerous residency and outreach activities wherever he appears. Mr. Pratt has been a frequent visitor as a performer to the White House, most notably during the Clinton and Obama administrations. Mr. Pratt’s most recent album, STILLPOINT, was noted by NPR as one of the ten best classical albums of 2023.

Mr. Pratt joins the orchestra for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. Beethoven performed the piece in his last appearance as a soloist with an orchestra prior to his death in 1827. It’s been called the most admirable, singular, artistic and complex Beethoven concerto ever, and is a favorite of concert audiences. The first movement opens with the solo piano, playing simple chords in the tonic key before coming to rest on a dominant chord. The second movement has been associated with the imagery of Orpheus taming the Furies (represented, respectively, by the piano and unison strings) at the gates to Hades. In contrast to the preceding movements, the third movement, in traditional rondo form, is simpler, characterized by a very rhythmic theme. The main theme begins, introduced quietly by the orchestra, in the subdominant key of C major before correcting itself to reach a cadence with the piano in the tonic key of G major.

Novo is looking forward to the three performances of the Masterworks V concert. Awadagin Pratt was originally scheduled to appear with the ASO in the 2019-2020 season, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic that performance was postponed. “I have known Awadagin for quite a few years and the Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto is one of his specialties, so our audience is up for a real treat,” he said. “We are also giving the world première of ASO’s co-commissioned First Symphony by South Korean-born composer Nicky Sohn, a new voice in the symphonic world with lots of talent, and whose boisterous orchestration will compete with Respighi’s Roman Festivals.”

Masterworks V also features Respighi’s Feste Romane, which debuted in 1928. Each movement depicts a scene of celebration in ancient and contemporary Rome, specifically gladiators battling to the death, the Christian Jubilee, a harvest and hunt festival, and a festival in the Piazza Navona.  “Respighi’s four tableaux about diverse traditional Roman celebrations will fill the hall with high voltage energy and will allow our fabulous orchestra to shine with incredible virtuosity. Look for the mellow mandolin solo in the third movement—it will immediately transport you to the heart of Italy!” said Novo. 

Tickets for the Maryland Hall performances are available at AnnapolisSymphony.org or by calling the Box Office at 410-263-0907. Student tickets are $10, using code STUDENT10 at checkout, good for up to 2 tickets per transaction. Tickets for the Strathmore performance must be purchased through the Strathmore website at https://www.strathmore.org/community-education/our-partners/annapolis-symphony-orchestra/

Previous Article

The Power of Knowledge: Leveraging Betting Guides for Smarter Wagers

Next Article

Daily News Brief | March 28, 2024

You might be interested in …