The 2015-2016 season marks 38 years since Michael Pratt came to Princeton to conduct the Princeton University Orchestra— a relationship that has resulted in the ensemble’s reputation as one of the finest university orchestras in the United States. Audiences and critics on both sides of the Atlantic have noted the Orchestra’s innovative programming and excellence of its performances.
Over the years, Pratt has guided many generations of Princeton students through a remarkable variety of the orchestral literature, ranging from J.S.Bach’s orchestral suites, through Classical era masterpieces such as symphonies of Haydn and Mozart, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Fidelio; the Romantic symphonies of Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms; to late-Romantic masterworks such as Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra and Ein Heldenleben, and major Mahler song cycles and symphonies 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9. Pratt has also led performances of 20th-century landmarks, including Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Oedipus Rex, Petrushka; Berg’s Violin Concerto and Wozzeck scenes, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé and Debussy’s La Mer. He also has conducted performances of works by Princeton faculty (Milton Babbitt, Peter Westergaard, Steve Mackey, Paul Lansky, Dan Trueman and Barbara White) and literally dozens of student composers. He has led the Princeton University Orchestra on ten European tours, performing in such musical centers as London, Dublin, Belfast, Prague, Vienna, Munich, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Budapest, Barcelona and Madrid. Under Pratt the PU Orchestra has also participated in major campus collaborations such as the premieres of Prokofiev’s Le Pas d’Acier and Boris Godunov.
As Director of the Princeton University Opera Theater, Pratt has led a long list of masterworks with students and professionals: operas from Mozart to Weber to Beethoven to Ravel to Puccini. In the past decade he has focused on the early Baroque operas of Monteverdi and Cavalli.
The chief architect of Princeton’s certificate Program in Musical Performance, Pratt has served as its director since its inception in 1991. This unique Program has received national attention, resulting in Princeton’s becoming a major destination for talented and academically gifted students. Pratt also established a partnership between Princeton and the Royal College of Music, London that every year sends Princeton students to study in London. He is also director of the Richardson Chamber Players at Princeton, a resident performing and teaching ensemble comprised of Princeton’s performance faculty.
Michael Pratt was educated at the Eastman School of Music and Tanglewood, and his teachers have included Gunther Schuller, Gustav Meier, Leonard Bernstein and Otto Werner Mueller. He was a founder of the Opera Festival of New Jersey, and was also Music Director of the Delaware Valley Philharmonic for 21 years. He was Associate Conductor of the New Jersey Symphony, where he worked with major artists such as Garrick Ohlsson, Maureen Forrester, and Lynn Harrell. He is currently Principal Conductor of American Repertory Ballet. He has also conducted the orchestras of Boston, Atlanta, Buffalo, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Odessa, Ukraine. This June he will make his debut with Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Ballet, conducting Hindemith’s The Four Temperaments in the celebrated choreography by George Balanchine.