Saturday, March 3, 2018 Florence Price spotlighted on Albany Records release - Violin concertos highlight disc devoted to composer

Florence Price Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2
Er-Gene Kahng, Violin
Janacek Philharmonic
Ryan Cockerham, Conductor
Albany Records Troy 1706 (2018)

Albany, New York

Joseph Dalton, Classical Notes

Friday, March 2, 2018

Last month the Capital Region's music scene was smack in the middle of a national trend – the revival of music by the late Florence Price. The Musicians of Ma'alwyck and the Capital Trio teamed up to offer two performances of Price's "Negro Folk Songs in Counterpoint." Almost simultaneously Albany Records issued a CD of Price's two violin concertos. Feature stories appeared in the New Yorker and The New York Times.

Price was an African-American woman composer, which means she started with two strikes against her. I've already written here about her failed attempts to get Serge Koussevitzky's attention. But she wasn't completely overlooked during her time. She wrote upward of 50 pieces for Marian Anderson. Her arrangement of the spiritual "My Soul's Been Anchored in the Lord" was the final selection in Anderson's legendary performance on the National Mall in 1939.


The First Violin Concerto is the more traditional of the two. It's cast in a traditional three movements and is in the key of D major, as are the violin concertos of Tchaikovsky and Brahms. The writing is at its best and most original in the passages that feel homespun and playful. The flatted third, the traditional blues note, is prominent in at least a couple of spots during the opening movement.

The Second Concerto is a blast. It's a brisk one-movement in which Price keeps throwing open doorways to different styles and languages. Such hopscotching around the musical map presages cartoon music and postmodernism. Granted, that's reading a lot into the piece, which doesn't come off as radical at all. To the contrary, the concerto would fit comfortably in any traditional orchestra program. 

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