Conductor Nicholas McGegan and pianist Awadagin Pratt team up for ‘A Baroque Evening’ at the Aspen Music Festival and School
For “A Baroque Evening” at the Aspen Music Festival and School on Thursday night, much of the program will focus on Bach — fitting, given the theme of the performance at Harris Hall.
But conductor Nicholas McGegan and acclaimed pianist Awadagin Pratt also have a contemporary piece in store: Pratt will play both a keyboard concerto by Bach and a relatively new work, “Rounds,” that he commissioned from composer Jessie Montgomery.
Reporter Kaya Williams spoke with McGegan and Pratt after a rehearsal for the program earlier this week. You can listen to their audio postcards below, and hear them live at the Harris Hall concert at 6 p.m. Thursday night.
Audio Postcard: Nicholas McGegan
McGegan, the conductor, has been coming to the Aspen Music Festival and School for more than two decades. Here, he reflects on the value of lived experience in creating music.
McGegan: We do have a magnificent hobby, which is called living. Personal experience, our lives, affect how we play everything. just as they affect everything we do.
As you say, better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all. And we hope that we're setting off those resonances in the audience — that they will have their own thoughts, and not just sit there and let it wash over them.
You know, we've all lived, and we all bring things to it. And frankly, if we don't, then the music's just AI. And then we've got no business playing it.
We are humans playing music by humans, and it's never going to be absolutely cut and dry. And that's good.
Audio Postcard: Awadagin Pratt
Pratt, the pianist, has performed in the White House and on Sesame Street, and combined music with spoken word in a program called “Black in America.”
Here, he reflects on the piece by Montgomery — a young, in-demand Black composer whose work includes elements of vernacular music, improvisation, poetry and social justice.
This postcard includes an excerpt of the Montgomery piece that Pratt recorded for an upcoming album, titled “Stillpoint.”
Pratt: Composers write music to express themselves, express our shared humanity, right? So just experiences, what it means, what it is to be a human being.
It's a non narrative kind of piece, but it takes its inspiration from T.S. Eliot's “Four Quartets” [and] “Burnt Norton,” the first poem, and five lines that begin with, “At the still point of the turning world.” Essentially, “there the dance is,” and “there is only the dance.”
It’s a terrific piece of music, it has a lot of energy again, in the outer areas of the piece, and then a kind of contemplative ruminative middle section.
But, you know, audiences love it. It's got a very kind of catchy tune, you can actually walk out of the hall kind of feeling that tune.