GENERAL ARTICLES

Keyboard Artist

Portrait of a Canadian whom U.S. critics have called one of the "most gifted" younger pianists

BOULKIND April 15 1942
GENERAL ARTICLES

Keyboard Artist

Portrait of a Canadian whom U.S. critics have called one of the "most gifted" younger pianists

BOULKIND April 15 1942

Keyboard Artist

Portrait of a Canadian whom U.S. critics have called one of the "most gifted" younger pianists

BOULKIND

GENERAL ARTICLES

A GOOD many Canadians are just beginning to discover Ross Pratt. This tall gaunt young man with the sweeping dark hair made his

Canadian debut as a mature pianist at Montreal’s Ritz Carlton last year, when the reviews echoed praise already sounded by critics in London, England. There followed a Town Hall appearance in New York, last November, when the Times declared, “This twenty - five - year - old Canadian pianist at once established himself as one of the most gifted of the younger generation of keyboard artists.”

The first sixteen of his twenty-five .years Ross Pratt lived in Winnipeg. At four he was already playing the piano by ear and by five he could run through all the pieces he heard his older sister practicing. Mr. and Mrs. Pratt decided it was high time young Ross had some lessons of his own, and when eight he could read almost any music at sight. Yet his parents had the good sense not to force him into the sad role of the child prodigy; he enjoyed sports and games and was a first-rate pupil all through public and high school.

Every year, from the age of nine to fifteen, he won the first performance prize of the Manitoba Competition Festival. At sixteen he had already played twice with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. At eighteen, when he won the Associated Board Scholarship (open to Dominion-wide competition), the adjudicator awarded him the highest marks he had ever granted in the Empire. The scholarship provided for two years at the Royal Academy of Music in London, but for special merit in this case it was extended another three years. While there he won every available prize for performance, and was four times invited to play at Queen’s Hall with Sir Henry Wood conducting.

Following his London debut in Wigmore Hall, critics talked of his “first-class technical equipment,” “his unusually sensitive approach,” “remarkable facility,” and ‘‘astonishing technique.”

The London Times called it “the masterly debut of a Canadian pianist, London taught.”

Since his return from England he has been living in Montreal because, as he explains, he likes its cosmopolitan atmosphere. At first he had difficulty finding a place to live where both he and his piano were welcome. A neighboring tenant in one apartment house complained to the janitor about that “never-ending piano playing next door.” Pratt called to apologize and the neighbors, probably taken aback at this courtesy, invited him in for a chat which naturally turned to music. They had a piano, too, a beautiful grand that no pianist could resist. Music soon filled the apartment again, this time at the tenant’s invitation and to his delight.

Pratt’s present studio on St. Mark Street is hung with photographs of Toscanini and other musical “greats” of many nationalities. As for Pratt himself, it is his desire to be recognized here, in the United States and abroad as a Canadian. “Most people can quite easily name a top-notch pianist of Russian or Polish origin,” he says, “but they find it harder to think of a first-rate Canadian pianist.”

He has a tremendous capacity for learning music. He saw the major work in his recent New York recital—Sonata in F minor by the contemporary English composer, Howard Ferguson—for the first time just six weeks before the performance. His present repertoire includes one hundred and fifty major works.

At intermission during a performance he has the habit of drinking tea. He never seems nervous but is a little vague and detached. Actually he is absorbed with a conception of how the music should sound and Is concentrating intensely on its rendition. “Audience appeaK’ of the showmanship variety is altpgether out of his line. He forgets his audience until the applause brings him back with a start.