The recently rediscovered swedish harpist and composer Anton Edvard Pratté (1796-1875),
once described by his contemporaries as ”the Harpking of the North”, wrote over two-hundred pieces and enjoyed an highly-praised career as a harpvirtuoso, both in Scandinavia and Continental Europe, alongside with other illustrious figures such as Elias Parish-Alvars (1808-1849) and Nicholas-Charles Bochsa (17891856). A critic interestingly compared Pratté´s playing with the latter, statuting that Pratté was ”the teacher” and Bochsa ”the student”!
Anton Edvard Pratté was born as Georg Anton Brát in Haida, Bohemia (nowadays part of the Czech Republic), into a large german-speaking family of marionette/puppet masters. The Brát family puppet theater company was widely well-known and extremely popular, and the childhood of Pratté was more or less an endless touring together with his family all over Northern Europe.
Young Pratté was early on noticed by numerous newspapers, as ”playing wonderfully on his David Harp during the show interludes”.
During a tour in Sweden and still a teenager, he decided to run away from a brutal father and a harsh lifestyle, changed his name to Anton Edvard Pratté and embraced an international solistic career, playing mostly his own compositions.
Countless enthusiastisc reviews about Pratté concerts, that always seemed to have attracted a lot of audience, are to be found in swedish as well as international newspapers: ”an authentical and genuine artist, that offers to his audience elegant and precious compositions, in the best style.”(Wiener Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, 1847), ”miraculous technique”, ”deep expression”, ”extraordinary verve and virtuosity”, ”delicate and energetic touch, artistic perfection”, ”impresses in an undescribable way”, ”a true master, that reaches the point where any kind of difficulties between the musician and the instrument ends” (various swedish newspapers).
From all this information we can see that he was a virtuoso of high calibre, however there is still a mystery to unfold about with whom and where he learned to play the harp and compose.
Pratté claimed to have received from the Russian Tsar himself the Erard harp that he was carrying around all over Europe on an espacially-made carriage.
Amazingly enough, despite the tremoundous success he had in most of the european music capitals and the multiple offers for permanent positions in major orchestras including the Swedish Royal Opera, Pratté chose instead to live most of his adult-life in the quiet region of Eastern Sweden, travelling between different aristocratic estates where he could stay in exchange of music teaching. He also was very active in the region as a conductor, beeing for example the chief-conductor of the ancestor of my very orchestra, the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra!
In addition to his music mastery, Pratté was also a talented painter and poet.
Despite dramatical sight-loss and various other health issues, he seemed to have performed concerts on a very high level until the end of his life, that occured on his eigthtieth year, in 1875.
The composing style of Pratté is a cross-over between classical elements that remind of Mozart, Haydn, Hummel or Boieldieu and romantism, including influences by Beethoven, Weber and the italian Bel Canto. He is unanimously praised as a composer by the critics for ”his savoir-faire , his sense for instrumentation, full and harmonic, as well as his sense for form”.
He wrote concertos, chamber music works with or without harp, overtures, symphonies, grand oratorios, hunters song, official pieces for the Swedish Royal Court and his compositions are also
including numerous virtuosic works for solo-harp, often Fantasies based on Opera themes or folk melodies coming from the european regions and countries where he was performing.
As Pratté was the one playing his compositions, he sadly did not seem to have been willing to publish his works during his lifetime. That is why we have been to this day able to uncover only a small part of his scores, after we first heard totally by coincidence his name for the first time a couple of years ago, but our research work is still fully ongoing, as well as being in the process of publishing and recording his wonderful music.