Pratt, Silas Gamaliel

1845-

 

American composer; born at Addison, Vermont, but raised at Plainfield, Illinois. At twelve years of age he came to Chicago and obtained a position, first in the music house of H. M. Higgins, and later with Lyon & Healy. He studied and practised the piano diligently, and in 1868 gave a series of recitals. Later that year he went to Berlin, where he studied the piano with Bendel and Kiel, working so assiduously that he disabled his right wrist and was forced to take a tour through Germany to restore his broken health. Returning to Berlin he turned to composition, studied under Wüerst and Kiel and wrote his first work for orchestra, Magdalena's Lament, a symphonic sketch, in 1870. The next year he returned to Chicago, and in April, 1872, appeared in a concert of his own vocal and piano compositions. He accepted his old position at Lyon & Healy's and organized the Apollo Club. He returned to Europe in 1875, was at Bayreuth, played before Liszt, and studied score-reading under Heinrich Dorn at Berlin, where in 1876 he produced his second symphony, The Prodigal Son, an overture for the Centennial Anniversary of our Independence. In 1877 he visited Paris and London, where he received warm praise for his Anniversary overture, played at the Crystal Palace concerts in honor of General Grant, and the march, Homage to Chicago, conducted by him at Alexander Palace. In 1878 he gave symphony  concerts in Chicago and began his opera, Zenobia, which was produced  in 1880.   He visited London again in 1885, giving recitals and producing The Prodigal Son and selections from Zenobia at the Crystal Palace. He had already organized and directed the Omaha Festival and the Chicago Grand Opera Festival in 1884. and on his return in 1886 he devoted himself to directing festivals and teaching the piano. Late in 1889 he removed to New York, and in 1890 entered upon his duties as piano professor at the Metropolitan Conservatory. In 1893, however, he directed musical performances at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, and at the Antwerp Exhibition of 1895 he conducted the Grand American concerts. He is at present principal of the West End Private School of Piano-Playing in New York. Mr. Pratt is very ambitious for the cause of American music, and has written several large patriotic works, Centennary Hymn to Washington; Triumph of Columbus, an opera; and the orchestral works, Paul Revere's Ride, The Battle Fantasia (descriptive of the Civil War), and The Battle of Manila. Besides the works already mentioned he has composed the opera Antonio, produced as Lucille; The Last Inca, a cantata; a symphonic suite on Shakespeare's Tempest; grotesque suite, The Brownies; serenade, and canon, for string orchestra; a number of small orchestral works; Soul Longings, for strings and piano; some fifty piano-pieces; and numerous songs and part-songs.