Albert Pratz

Pratz, Albert. Violinist, conductor, teacher, composer, b Toronto 13 May 1914, d Scottsdale, Ariz, 28 Mar 1995.

Pratz, Albert. Violinist, conductor, teacher, composer, b Toronto 13 May 1914, d Scottsdale, Ariz, 28 Mar 1995. Albert Pratz studied in Toronto with Broadus Farmer and Luigi von Kunits, in the USA in 1933 with Michel Piastro and summers during the early 1930s with Mischa Mischakoff, and in Europe 1936-7 with William Primrose. He began his career in 1929 in a CFRB radio orchestra under Alexander Chuhaldin and made his solo debut in 1937 in the Tchaikovsky Concerto at the Promenade Symphony Concerts under Reginald Stewart. He played 1933-41 in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and various CRBC and CBC orchestras and was orchestra conductor 1940-3 for CBC Winnipeg.

After moving to New York and serving 1943-6 in the US army, Pratz was a member 1946-53 of the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Toscanini and of various New York studio and pit orchestras, the associate conductor for the production of One Touch of Venus, and the violin soloist in the original production of Oklahoma!. He returned to Canada in 1953 and played that year with the cellist Isaac Mamott and the pianist Glenn Gould in the Festival Trio at the first Stratford Festival. He served 1953-61 as concertmaster of the CBC Symphony Orchestra and taught 1953-62 at the Royal Conservatory of Music. With the CBC Symphony Orchestra he conducted several broadcasts and was soloist in concertos by Brahms (1953), Vieuxtemps (1954), Weinzweig (premiere, 1955), Tchaikovsky (1956), Viotti (1957), Busoni (1958), Bliss (1959), Lalo (1960), Walton (1962), and Khatchaturian (1964). Pratz also conducted the orchestra for the CBC radio series "Let's Make Music" and "The Music Box" and was heard regularly in the radio series Stardust and in many CBC recitals. He was often accompanied on piano by his sister Frances Pratz (b Toronto 14 Mar 1924) or by Leo Barkin. He was concertmaster 1955-60 and a soloist on several occasions with the Hart House Orchestra.

Albert Pratz formed the short-lived (1961-3) but significant Canadian String Quartet, with which he played first violin. Later, he taught 1964-6 at Brandon University. Appointed concertmaster of the Buffalo Philharmonic in 1965, he also conducted that orchestra occasionally. He received the Canadian Centennial Medal in 1967. He returned to the TS in 1969, was appointed acting concertmaster in 1970, and served as concertmaster 1971-9. He left due to ill health. With the TS his solo work included performances of the Weinzweig Concerto (for CBC TV 1971), Bruch's Concerto No. 1 (1972), Brahms's Double Concerto (with the cellist Peter Schenkman, 1972), Bach's Brandenburg Concertos No. 4 and 5 (1973 and 1976 respectively), Mozart's Sinfonia concertante (with the violist Stanley Solomon, 1975), and Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 3 (1977), which he was given credit for rediscovering. Of the latter performance John Kraglund wrote (Toronto Globe and Mail, 30 Mar 1977): "Pratz contributed warmly singing tone [and] technical precision ... If he could be faulted, it was only in what seemed like excessive restraint - compared to the orchestral part - in the finale. Hometown or not, it was an interpretation that warranted a wealth of bravos." With the CBC Festival Orchestra he participated in the Canadian premiere (4 Mar 1973) of Berio's Concertino 1951.

Pratz also played in many Toronto studio orchestras for recordings, film scores (eg, Louis Applebaum's score, largely for solo violin, for Harry Rasky's Homage to Chagall), and jingles. Pratz taught at the University of Toronto while a member of the Canadian String Quartet and taught privately thereafter and for the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. His pupils included Dean Franke, Carol Lynn Fujino, Raymond Gniewek, Myron Moskalyk, Imant Raminsh, Bill Richards, Lenny Solomon, Steven Staryk, Campbell Trowsdale, David Zafer, and the US comedian Jack Benny. Pratz composed instrumental pieces, including Melanie Waltz and A Tango (arranged by Fred Rous and published by Canadian Music Sales in 1956 and 1957 respectively), and others recorded by his CBC orchestra. After leaving the TS in 1979 Pratz moved to Florida, and later lived in retirement in California.

Discography

As Violinist
Berg - Shostakovich - Taneyev- Prokofiev. Gould piano. 1953. Hallmark RS-3/Turnabout TV-34792X/Fanfare DFCD-9032 (CD)/Naxos 9.80520

Bruch Violin Concerto, Opus 58. CBC Festival O, Feldbrill conductor. 1976. CBC SM-329

Concert Miniatures for Violin and Piano: Bloch - Falla - Albéniz - et al. Taussig piano. 1970. CBC SM-159

Hi diddle fiddle. Burt - Snider- et al. CBC SB 1360-61

Korngold - Willan - Szymanowski - Chaminade. Kushner piano. 1950. RCI 42

Morawetz Duo - Willan Sonata in E Minor. Barkin piano. Ca 1956. RCI 124/(Willan) 5-ACM 11/(Morawetz) 6-ACM 16

Morawetz Sonata No. 1 (Barkin piano) - Turner Sonata (Souvairan piano). (1963). RCI 194/(Turner) 7-ACM 15

The Voice of the Stradivarius: Chopin - Lully - Moszkowski - et al. Orch, Hyslop conductor. AofD SDD-2118

Weinzweig Violin Concerto. CBC SO, Waddington conductor. 1962. RCI 183/5-ACM 1

Weinzweig. Canadian Composer Portraits. Loman harp; Barnes, B. Brott, Mester, Waddington conductors. 2002. Centrediscs CMC CD 8002

As Conductor

Albert Pratz and His Orchestra : songs and instrumental selections by L. Agostini - Burt - Pratz - Rous - Symonds - R. Toth - et al. Solos by Fiore fl, Lewis bsn, Niosi saxophone; vocals by Dale and Koster. 1960. 4-RCI 171-174

The four seasons. Koffman flute. 1972. 9230-1022 GRT

Rous Totem Pole Suite. CBC Light O. 1962. RCI 186


Further Reading

  • Littler, William. "40-year search for missing music," Toronto Star, 8 March 1975

    Moorsom, Val. "Albert Pratz: year of '79," TS News, issue 6, 1979

    "Obituary: Albert Pratz," Crescendo, July/Aug 1995