Thursday, March 21, 2019 Naxos CD of Florence Price Symphonies is Recommended

Florence B. Price (1887-1953)

John Jeter forwards this review:


Stephen Greenbank

Florence Beatrice PRICE (1887-1953)
Symphony No. 1 in E minor (1932) [37:22]
Symphony No. 4 in D minor (1945) [31:34]
Fort Smith Symphony/John Jeter
rec. 2018, ArcBest Performing Arts Center, Fort Smith, Arkansas, USA

NAXOS 8.559827 [69:04]

Florence Beatrice Price holds the distinction of being the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer. She was one of three children born into a mixed-race family in 1887 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her father was a dentist, and her mother a music teacher, who gave young Florence some initial tuition. At the age of fourteen she enrolled at the New England Conservatory in Boston to study piano teaching and organ. In addition, she had the opportunity to study composition and counterpoint with composers George Chadwick and Frederick Converse. She graduated in 1906 and returned to Arkansas to teach, then moved on to Georgia in 1910. Two years later she married Thomas J. Price, a lawyer, and moved back to Little Rock. A series of racial incidents there resulted in another move, this time to Chicago. It was here that her career as a composer really took off, in addition to her work as a teacher and concert pianist. Divorce and financial hardship, as well as having to bring up two daughters as a single mother, did eventually take its toll. She died of a stroke on June 3, 1953, at the age of only 66.


The recently discovered Fourth Symphony of 1945 here receives its first recording. Like the First Symphony it has immediate appeal, offering plenty to enjoy. Price makes reference to the Negro Spiritual ‘Wade in the Water’ in the substantial first movement, as long as the sum total of the other three movements. A tender Andante cantabile follows with, once more, the spirit of Dvořák hovering in the background. Again comes a Juba Dance, sprightly, engaging and full of elan. The fourth movement is marked Scherzo and packs a punch with its bold and valiant brass writing.

The Fort Smith Symphony deliver riveting performances of these two symphonic works, under the direction of their charismatic conductor John Jeter. This compelling music could have no better advocates. This constitutes a good starting point for those who haven't already encountered Price's music and are curious.

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