Wednesday, September 21, 2011 Rae Linda Brown on Trevor Weston: 'He stayed true to Florence Price’s voice.'

[Trevor Weston, PhD (Photo by Bill Cardoni)]

Drew Magazine
“A composer rescues a classical work for piano written by an African-American woman whose music graced the Chicago World’s Fair.
By Christopher Hann
“Trevor Weston’s assignment seemed monumental, to put it mildly: Reconstruct the long-lost orchestral score for a piano concerto originally written by an early–20th-century, female African-American composer of classical music. Weston, 44, an associate professor of music at Drew, received the commission last year from the Center for Black Music Research in Chicago, which was planning to perform the concerto and release an album of the composer’s work. As Weston says, 'My name came up as someone who could put Humpty Dumpty back together again.'”

“Her name was Florence Beatrice Price. Born in Little Rock, Ark., in 1887, she performed at a piano recital at 4, published her first work at 11 and enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music at 16.” “But in 1932 Price won a prestigious prize for symphonic composition, and the conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Frederick Stock, took note. Stock encouraged her to write a piano concerto, and the following year he presented Price’s Symphony in E minor at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair—the first time that a major American orchestra performed a symphony written by a black woman.

“Weston, who received a Ph.D. in music composition from UC-Berkeley, confesses to knowing little of Price’s life and work before he was approached by the Center for Black Music Research. The center was producing a series of recordings documenting the African diaspora, one of which was to be Price’s Concerto in One Movement. There was just one problem. 'We knew going into this,' says Morris Phibbs, the center’s deputy director, 'that part of the score for the concerto had been missing at least since 1940.'”

“This fall the Center for Black Music Research will release a studio recording of two works by Price: Symphony in E minor and Concerto in One Movement, as re-imagined by Trevor Weston. For Rae Linda Brown, the reviews are already in. 'We can uphold Trevor’s score as authentic,' Brown says. 'He upheld it as a piece of African-American history, a very important piece of history. He stayed true to Florence Price’s voice.'

Comments by email:
Congratulations to Trevor!! I look forward to hearing a performance of this piece!! We need more exemplars of great music of Americans of African descent such as this!! Timothy W. Holley

Hi Bill: Timothy Holley will have an opportunity to hear the piece (performed by Karen Walwyn and the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble) along with Price’s Symphony No. 1 in e minor later this fall when our CD comes out. It is produced by Albany Records. It was extremely interesting to talk with Trevor about the reconstruction of the piano concerto from three manuscript versions—two for two pianos and one for three pianos(!). He did a great job. Suzanne [Suzanne Flandreau]

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