COMPOSED BY

Florence Price (Apr 1887 - Jun 1953)

COMPOSED IN

1932

DURATION

37 minutes

INSTRUMENTATION

2 flutes, 2 piccolos, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, timpani, percussion and strings.

SUMMARY

Price was the first African-American woman to have a symphonic work performed by a major American orchestra. The hardships of Price’s unlikely journey from a post-Civil War South to the stage of the Chicago Symphony are summed up in one of her letters: “I have two handicaps, those of sex and race. I am a woman and I have some Negro blood in my veins.”
Banjos

ABOUT THE COMPOSITION

Movement I – Allegro [ma] non troppo: Brilliant, idyllic, and powerful, the music materials in this movement recall Dvořák’s celebrated work Symphony No. 9, especially in its second theme. But considering that Dvořák was borrowing his material, it is perhaps fitting that someone from the community from which it was borrowed should reclaim it for similar symphonic ends. 

Movement II – Largo, maestoso: The second movement features a hymn-like melody, with texture inspired by church music. The ten-part brass writing of the movement is as American as you like.

Movement III – Juba Dance: The jovial third movement, Juba Dance, which is based on distinctive African-American ante-bellum dance rhythms, captures the imagination. Inspired by the dance which involves a kind of body percussion, the string section becomes a ‘folk-fiddle’ section with interspersed melodies. The percussion and the slide whistle take it all firmly out of the concert hall.

Movement IV – Finale: Completing a piece of strong influences of Romanticism in her unique American voice, the Symphony closes with a tour de force presto movement based on an ascending and descending scale figure.

5 FUN FACTS ABOUT THE COMPOSER

Florence Price
  • Florence Price was the first African American woman composer to have her symphony performed by a major orchestra.
  • She was the first African American composer to be represented through the Illinois Federation of Music Clubs and the first black member of both the Chicago Club of Women Organists and the Musicians Club of Women.
  • Florence Price grew up a part of the Black elite in Little Rock, Arkansas in the Reconstruction Era of the late-nineteenth century.
  • The Heart of a Woman by Rae Linda Brown is the first biography of Florence Price.
  • Florence Price was a music teacher before becoming a composer.

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