Sunday, March 6, 2016

On An Overgrown Path: One of the most imaginative talents in 1940s America [Florence B. Price]

Florence Beatrice Smith Price (1887-1953) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works Lists by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma,

John McLaughlin Williams

National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine
John McLaughlin Williams, Conductor
Naxos 8.559065 (2001)

Bob Shingleton of On An Overgrown Path writes:


John McLaughlin Williams on Florence Price and racism in 20th century American music -



On An Overgrown Path

Sunday, March 06, 2016

John McLaughlin Williams writes ~ Your recent post on Bruno Walter and Samuel Barber is very interesting, particularly your mention of Daniel Gregory Mason. He is utterly forgotten today despite his having notable performers and performances. This is due in part to his second tier compositional abilities, and also to his espousing of uncomfortable views about ethnic influences in (then) contemporary music. While not as openly virulent a racist as John Powell, Mason did promote the notion of "purity" in American music, as in its being more properly derived from Anglo-Saxon sources rather than the folk music of former slaves and Jews. 

Bruno Walter did what he could for Mason, but he was far more enthusiastic about John Alden Carpenter. As a composer Carpenter was a much more imposing figure than Mason, and Walter did his music many times. [BS - Walter performed Carpenter's First Symphony with the LA Phil in 1940, and premiered his Second Symphony with the NY Phil in 1942.] You may find a column by Terry Teachout as interesting as I did, as it quite succinctly and fairly assesses Carpenter, though at the time it was was written there were no recorded examples of Carpenter's mature work, and thus it cannot be called a truly complete view of the composer's work. At that point my recording was still years away - sample here. A review of that CD described John Alden Carpenter as "one of the most polished and imaginative talent at work in 1940s America".

Carpenter was also egalitarian in his dealings with others; he was among those who supported the African-American composer Florence Price in obtaining important early performances of her orchestral music. Price became the first female of her race to write a symphony and have it performed by a major ensemble - see video below.

Comments by email:

1) Hello; Thanks for sharing this link with me, I'm happy to learn about this recording of Carpenter's music.  It is probably well known to you all, but when researching for my Price documentary I learned that at the 1933 concert at the Chicago World's Fair in which Price's Sym. in E minor was premiered, that Margaret Bonds also performed a work by John Alden Carpenter.   I can't recall the name right now, something like a Divertimento for Piano and Orchestra. Best Wishes, Jim Greeson [Producer, The Caged Bird]

2) Hello James, Thank you for your comment, and thank you particularly for the Price documentary; I cannot wait to see it. The piano work played by Bonds would have to be Carpenter's Concertino; it is the only designated piano and orchestra work by the composer, though the piano features prominently in the instrumentation of most of his orchestral scores. Thank you for your invaluable work.  Best regards, JMW  [John McLaughlin Williams] 

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