The work of a woman composer: Florence Price

In November 1943, Florence Price wrote to Serge Koussevitzky, the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, asking him to consider performing her scores “Unfortunately the work of a woman composer is preconceived by many to be light, froth, lacking in depth, logic and virility. Add to that the incident of race — I have Colored blood in my veins — and you will understand some of the difficulties that confront one in such a position.”

Koussevitzky never replied to her.

NAXOS will soon release an album of the music of Florence Price.

The Symphony No. 3 in C Minor of Florence Price is melodic, inflected with Afro-American religious melodies while embracing European tradition yet American in spirit, broadly Romantic, bluesy at times, jazzily syncopated at others. Divided into four movements – a noble opening Andante-Allegro, a slower Andante that welcomes haunting soli from the various woodwind principals, a Juba – a now lively, now sensuous dance of 19th century plantation Blacks – and a rousingly dramatic  Scherzo Finale.

The Mississippi River Suite is even more African-American in spirit and in its use of Afro-American tunes: “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” “Stand Still, Jordan,” “Go Down, Moses,” and “Deep River”  

Price lets us imagine a boat cruising down the Mississippi depicting scenes along the way, evoking sunrise, imitating nature, even summoning images of Native Americans, riffing jazz and blues.

Again, the incomparable ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra plays this music with complete commitment.

The Arrival of the Negro in America when first brought here as a slave…His Resignation and Faith… His Adaptation: a Fusion of his native and acquired impulses are the titles to  the three movements of Florence Price’s suite Ethiopia’s Shadow in America, a 1932 work in which Price continued her exploration of Afro-American music and its integration onto the European orchestral repertoire, here now in its world premiere.

The ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra led by John Jeter gives this joyful, all-American music its utmost care in elegant and loving readings, all to prove that Florence Price’s long-overdue recognition has finally arrived.

Rafael de Acha            ALL ABOUT THE ARTS

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