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FLORENCE BEATRICE PRICE (1887-1953)

Adoration (1951)

Arranged by Jim Gray

With the re-discovery of Florence Price’s music in 2009, Price’s legacy in the form of manuscripts, letters, and personal items were uncovered in her abandoned summer home on the outskirts of St. Anne, Illinois. Her life, heavily researched by the musicologist Douglas Shadle, revealed a prolific composer of keyboard, chamber, and orchestral works, including two violin concertos, a teacher, mother, and an active participant in the National Association for Negro Musicians (NANM) and the National Federation of Music Clubs.

 

Price faced many challenges to carve out a career amongst the titans of the male white and buried. Writing to the conductor Serge Koussevitzky in 1943, she would introduce herself as: “My dear Dr. Koussevitzky, To begin with I have two handicaps — those of sex and race. I am a woman; and I have some Negro blood in my veins.” Her work, mainly in the romantic style, would be neglected by many, including Koussevitzky, but she persevered. The performance of her “Symphony in E-minor” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933 is the first time any major orchestra had performed music composed by an African American woman.

 

Composed two years before her death, Price’s “Adoration” is originally for organ and is arranged for solo violin and strings by Jim Gray. As the title suggests, the brief 3-minute work channels a sacred devotion common with liturgical hymnody. The form is ternary, beginning with a long meditative melody accompanied by a bed of harmony. A responsorial section leads to a richer, slower section that rises and falls in melodic contour, reaching its expressive peak. The work ends returning to the opening melody, cadencing the musical prayer in Amen.

 

Florence Beatrice Price was born on April 9, 1887, in Little Rock, Arkansas, and died on June 3, 1953, in Chicago, Illinois.© MTF

(Notes by Michael-Thomas Foumai)

ABOUT THIS PERFORMANCE (MASTERWORKS 3):

American masters take center stage to celebrate an American experience, fearless women, impossible virtuosity, and unforgettable journeys. Violinist Joshua Bell and Soprano Larisa Martinez join your Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra in a program of the unshakable American spirit with Barber’s sweeping Violin Concerto, Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Bernstein’s West Side Story, Gershwin’s tour de force An American in Paris, and more! © MTF