Monday, December 5, 2011

'Concerto in One Movement and Symphony in E Minor' Enhances Recorded Repertoire of Florence B. Price

[TOP: Florence B. Price BOTTOM: Florence B. Price: Concerto in One Movement, Symphony in E Minor; Albany Records Troy 1295 (2011)]

Florence Beatrice Smith Price (1887-1953) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works Lists by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, The Center for Black Music Research at Columbia college Chicago is collaborating with Albany Records on the series Recorded Music of the African Diaspora. This is the third volume, and is now available from retailers.

The Concerto in One Movement and the Symphony in E Minor both portray Florence Price as a fully-developed composer in ways not seen since 2001, when Apo Hsu led the Women's Philharmonic in a recording of her Symphony No. 3, Mississippi River Suite, and The Oak. We very much hope the new CD will further offset the previous tendency, especially on radio programs, to associate Florence Price almost exclusively with her lively piano pieces and her works for organ. This orchestral release may also increase awareness of the role long played in classical music by women of African descent.

The liner notes are by Horace J. Maxile, Jr. Associate Director of Research, Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago:
Florence B. Price (1887-1953) was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. She studied music at home before relocating to Boston to obtain an Artist's Diploma in Organ Music and a Teacher's Diploma in Piano from the New England Conservatory in 1906. She taught at Shorter College (1906-1910) and headed the music department at Clark University in Atlanta (1910-1912). After returning to Little Rock for a period, she moved in 1927 to Chicago, where she continued to study composition at various institutions, including the Chicago Musical College and the American Conservatory, and to teach piano. Price composed throughout her life, producing as many as 300 compositions, including teaching pieces and longer works for piano, works for chamber ensembles, orchestra and band, and art songs and spiritual arrangements that were performed by major artists including Roland Hayes, Marian Anderson, and Leontyne Price. In the 1930s and early 1940s some of her longer works were performed by music groups sponsored by the WPA in Illinois and Michigan. Price was highly visible as a teacher, performer, and organizer in Chicago's concert and church music spheres.”

Price's Concerto in One Movement for piano was premiered in Chicago in 1934 with Price herself as pianist. The premiere was followed by another performance in Chicago by the Woman's Symphony of Chicago, with Price's student Margaret Bonds as soloist. There is no evidence of the piece being performed after the 1930s and, at present, there are no copies of the composer's manuscript of the orchestral score. Therefore, to revive this deserving work, the Center for Black Music Research commissioned composer Trevor Weston to reconstruct the concerto's orchestration, which was premiered in Chicago on February 17, 2011, by the Center's New Black Music Repertory Ensemble, with Karen Walwyn as pianist.”

“Although the concerto is in one movement, three distinct sections, Moderato-Adagio-Allegretto, make the piece analogous to the traditional three-movement concerto. The 'Moderato,' in D Minor, begins with an introduction that presents fragments of the primary theme, followed by an extended piano cadenza.” “The 'Adagio' section, in D major, is virtually a piano solo with sparse orchestral accompaniment.” “The concerto concludes with a spirited dance in B-flat Major. As noted by Price scholar Rae Linda Brown, this section, marked 'Allegretto,' is inspired by the 'Juba,' an antebellum folk dance.” “Call-and-response textures abound between sections of the orchestra and the piano and overlapping melodic ideas create exciting polyrhythmic episodes. These elements give way to a culminating tutti statement of the theme and a boisterous final cadence.

“Although Price's earlier works embrace nationalist tenets concurrent with the ideologies of her black contemporaries, her compositional thought expanded during her later years and moved beyond overt references to vernacular culture. This wide range of influences coupled with strong craftmanship has left an indelible legacy which is highlighted by her ground-breaking Symphony in E Minor, which was the first prize winner of the 1932 Rodman Wanamaker Music Contest and is considered among the main concert musical achievements of the period. Premiered in 1933 by Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Chicago World's Fair Century of Progress Exhibition. Price's Symphony in E Minor, her first symphony, is the first work by a black woman to be performed by a major orchestra in the United States.”

“Cast into the traditional four-movement model, this symphony presents a sophisticated union of Western European and African-American influences. The first movement is in sonata form and displays the conventional thematic and harmonic relationships associated with the form. Price's choice of thematic material, however, is where one encounters the vernacular influence.” “References to church music, spirituals, and traditional African music resonate throughout the second movement. Price sets an original hymn tune by a brass choir as the primary thematic material.”

“In keeping with the traditional incorporation of dance elements in the third movements of Western symphonies, Price evokes the 'Juba Dance,' which seems to be her dance of choice.” “The fourth movement, also in rondo form, is propelled by a relentless triplet figure in a duple meter.” “The symphony concludes with an accelerando through a rousing coda and culminates with an awakening crash.”

Leslie B. Dunner, one of the premier American conductors of his generation, enjoys an international career distinguished by the breadth of his repertoire as well as his critically lauded performances.” “Concert and recording artist Karen Walwyn made her New York recital debut at Merkin Hall, a performance that was quickly followed by her debut performance on National Public Radio. Her recordings Dark Fires, 20th Century Music for Piano, Vol. I and Dark Fires: Walwyn and Friends, Vol. II (both with Albany Records) have won glowing reviews.

Trevor Weston earned masters and doctoral degrees at the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied with Richard Felciano, Andrew Imbrie,and his primary teacher, Olly W. Wilson. He also studied with T.J. Anderson at Tufts University.” “The New Black Music Repertory Ensemble, the performance arm of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago, is an ensemble of approximately 70 professional musicians with the mission to perform the widest possible range of musical expression from the African diaspora.”

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