Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Witnessing First Performance of Florence Price's Symphony No. 3 in C Minor

[Symphony No. 3; Mississippi River Suite; The Oak; The Women's Philharmonic; Apo Hsu, Conductor; Koch 3 75182H1 (2001)]

Mike S. Wright of London, England is Chair of the International Society of African to American Music. He tells AfriClassical: “I have been a long admirer of Florence Price's works and was initially made aware of her organ works many years ago. This happened when I caught sight of some and just thought I would give them a 'quick whirl'. That was all that was needed to make a big impression. Whilst I was also aware of her spiritual arrangements, it never occurred to me at the time that she was into something big like symphonies! I became aware of the Symphony in E minor (No 1) of 1931-2 and it was not until Judith Anne Still's superb conference in Flagstaff in June 1998 which featured Florence Price's Symphony No 3 in C minor (understood to have been first performed in Detroit in 1940) existed at all.

Dominique-René de Lerma and I witnessed this symphony's first performance at this landmark conference. It is a fine symphony and full of period character worthy of some even greater recordings by mainstream orchestras around the world! Bravo Women's Philharmonic for making the CD. This symphony is in full romantic style and is unmistakably nationalistic with more than a few hints of spirituals. Influences of Dvorak and possibly Still abound with a strong first movement perhaps not quite matched later on. However, the Juba style rhythms in the third movement help to give the work some real character and Maestro Ronnie Wooten led an enthusiastic orchestra in a distinctive performance. To me it was a discovery but to this date, I have not heard whether Price's 2nd symphony (presumed at that time to be lost) has ever surfaced. Perhaps some readers of this may have some idea! I would also like to add that in that same event on another evening, Maestro John McLaughlin Williams led the same orchestra in a welcome premier performance of William Grant Still's orchestral version of Florence Price's Dances in the Canebrakes.”

1 comment:

JW said...

Hello Bill. A correction is in order here. Though I was present at the performance described by Mike, I did not conduct it. It was conducted ably by Ronnie Wooten. I did however conduct the world premier performance of William Grant Still's orchestral version of Florence Price's Dances in the Canebrakes.