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two hundred and fifty years
of music by women
Florence Price (1887-1953)

Orchestra Hall, Chicago Price was the first African-American woman to win widespread recognition as a symphonic composer, rising to prominence in the 1930s. She studied at the New England Conservatory in Boston, and privately with George Chadwick. Her family moved to Chicago in 1927 to escape the increasing racial oppression in the South. She started winning awards for her composition in the 1920s, and in 1933 became the first African-American woman to have an orchestral work performed by a major American orchestra when the Chicago SO premiered her Symphony in E minor. Her Songs to the Dark Virgin was hailed by the Chicago Daily News as "one of the greatest immediate successes ever won by an American song." Her musical language is in keeping with the romantic nationalist style of the 1920s-40s, while also reflecting the influence of her heritage. She incorporates spirituals and characteristic dance music within classical forms, at times using call-and-response techniques and Juba dance rhythms. She bought colouful harmonies and exotic modulations into her instrumental and vocal writing.

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Symphony No 1 in E minor. 1931-2
3 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bn, 4 hn, 3 tpt, 3 tbn, tb, timp, pers, celesta, stgs. 27 mins
This Symphony won Price the first prize in the Wanamaker Competition in 1932 and brought her national recognition. It is in an expressive late romantic idiom. The third movement is called 'Juba' and uses rhythmic patterns of this old dance which involved syncopated clapping and thigh-slapping.

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Symphony No 3 in C minor. 1940
4 fl, 3 ob, 3 cl, 2 bn, 4 hn, 3 tpt, 3 tbn, tb, timp, 4 perc, celesta, stgs. 30 mins
Originally premiered in Detroit in 1940, it was only heard again in modern times in 1998, when it was performed at the Northern Arizona University. It is a splendid work, which should enter the repertoire. It has recently been recorded by the Women's Philharmonic, on a CD with 'The Oak', and 'The Mississippi River'.
Parts available through Rae Linda Brown (e-mail:

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