Superstar pianists shine through Art of the Piano

By Thom Mariner

Maybe this is the year Cincinnati truly takes notice, and Awadagin Pratt’s Art of the Piano festival steps out into the limelight.

Just when you think things are quieting down, music-wise, at the end of the traditional music season, along come a baker’s dozen world-class pianists to teach and perform at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where Pratt is professor of music and artist-in-residence. Over the span of three weeks – May 25-June 15 – these faculty artists will conduct master classes for the next generation of concert pianists, and perform eight public recitals in the intimate confines of Werner Recital Hall (capacity 280). It’s a rare opportunity to experience these masters up-close.

The master classes are inspired by those conducted by the great Franz Liszt in the 19th century. Thanks to generous donors of the AOP Foundation, festival participation is free to 25 select pianists age 15 and older.
All master classes are open to the public and free with the purchase of an all-Festival pass, or a weekly pass. Also, there is a code with each individual purchased ticket allowing free admission to that performing artist’s master class.

Most of the eight faculty recitals feature core classical and romantic repertoire of Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Chopin. However, Pratt and CCM grad, baritone Simon Barrad, will open proceedings with a performance of Schubert’s iconic song cycle, “Winterreise,” to illustrate the art of accompaniment. And the diversely talented Christopher O’Riley will close the festival with a display of his arranging talents through a transcription of Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique” and music by art-rock band, Radiohead.

Five weeknight recitals will feature young festival artists.

The pianist who most embodies the spirit of the festival in terms of “the beauty and brilliance of their playing, as well as their generosity of spirit,” will receive an Enlight Prize of $3,000, together with a recital on the local 2019-2020 Salon 21 Series. Runner-up will earn $1,500.

Faculty artist recitals:

  • May 25, 7 p.m. Awadagin Pratt (piano), Simon Barrad (baritone): Schubert’s “Winterreise”
  • May 26, 3 p.m. Alexander Korsantia: piano sonatas by Haydn and Schubert
  • May 31, 7 p.m. Boris Berman: sonatas by Haydn and Schubert
  • June 2, 4 p.m. Leon Fleisher: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12, K. 414 (accompanied by string quintet)
  • June 7, 7 p.m. Jura Margulis: Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” and music by Schubert
  • June 8, 7 p.m. Maria Murawska: all-Chopin program
  • June 14, 7 p.m. Vladimir Feltsman: music of Beethoven and Chopin
  • June 15, 7 p.m. Christopher O’Riley: arrangements of music by Radiohead and Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique”

Tickets for faculty recitals: $20. Festival pass: $150. Weekly pass: $50. Early bird discount on festival passes available until May 1.

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