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celebrating three hundred years of music by women

Florence Price (1887-1953)

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.

Further information from the web - libinfo.uark.edu/SpecialCollections/findingaids/price.html
The Heart of a Woman - The Life and Music of Florence B. Price, Rae Linda Brown (University of Illinois, 2020).
The Caged Bird: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price DVD documentary, with performances of her works.

Click on these works for more details below:
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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 squarely in the nationalist tradition, and it may be more fully considered in the context of the Harlem Renaissance and the New Negro Movement of the 1920s and 1930s. Cultural characteristics are borne out in the pentatonic themes, call-and-response procedures, syncopated rhythms of the third movement's Juba dance (using rhythmic patterns of this old dance which involved syncopated clapping and thigh-slapping, the preponderance of altered tones, and the timbral contrast of instrumental brass and woodwind choirs.It is in an expressive late romantic idiom. There's a recording on Albany Records.

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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
The Symphony in C Minor was inspired by new philosophical, political, and social currents, stemming from the Chicago Renaissance, underway from 1935-1950. The Great Migration (of blacks from the south to Chicago), the Depression, and the adjustment to urban life provided vivid life experiences as subject matter for Chicago Renaissance writers and artists. Originally premièred 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. The recording on Koch by the Women's Philharmonic also includes 'The Oak', and 'The Mississippi River'.
Information on parts from Rae Linda Brown (e-mail: rlbrown@uci.edu)

Songs and keyboard music available on G Schirmer Inc, ClarNan and OUP.

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