Musicians of Ma’alwyck, Capital Trio join forces to perform Price and Dvořák

Florence B. Price - Florence Beatrice Smith Price University of Arkansas7:30 pm • Thursday, February 8th 2018
University at Albany Performing Arts Center • Albany, NY

7:00 pm • Friday, February 9th 2018
Carl B. Taylor Auditorium at Schenectady County Community College • Schenectady, NY

In this cold and snowy week, the Musicians of Ma’alwyck continues its 2017-18 concert activity by collaborating with the Capital Trio timed appropriately for Black History Month. Entitled “Sweet Power,” the program features Florence Beatrice Price’s 5 Negro Folk Songs in Counterpoint and a Piano Quintet of Antonín Dvořák. There is a preview program at the University at Albany on Thursday evening (rescheduled from Wednesday due to the snow storm) and a full program on Friday evening at Schenectady County Community College.

In all likelihood, fans of symphonic music and chamber music are familiar with Dvořák with his ever-popular Symphony No. 9, “From the New World,” and Piano Trio No. 4, “Dumky.” But it’s my guess that not many are aware of the American composer Florence Beatrice Price (1887-1953). Not surprising as she was not white nor male at the time she was writing music. Or as Alex Ross framed it in his recent article for The New Yorker, “The Rediscovery of Florence Price,” (5-Feb-2018):

The reasons for the shocking neglect of Price’s legacy are not hard to find. In a 1943 letter to the conductor Serge Koussevitzky, she introduced herself thus: ‘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.” She plainly saw these factors as obstacles to her career, because she then spoke of Koussevitzky ‘knowing the worst.’”

I encourage you to read Ross’ article (click here) as it is not only an informative and good read, it points to a serious programming flaw of many organizations that continues to perpetuate the lack of attention to many composers of merit. But that’s another larger topic for another time….

Here’s a quickie intro to the award-winning pianist and composer, Florence Beatrice Price. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas on April 9th 1887, Price gave her first piano performance at the age of four. She went on to attend the New England Conservatory of Music, graduating in 1906 at age 19 with degrees in organ performance and musical education. She eventually settled in Chicago where her award-winning “Symphony in E Minor” was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. She was the first African-American woman to have her work performed by a major symphony, and this help pave the way for more of her work to be commissioned by orchestras both domestically and abroad. Luminaries such as Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price sang her compositions as well. It may be of interest that in the infamous April 9th concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, Marian Anderson sang one of Price’s songs as the closing work on the program. At the time of her death, Florence B. Price had become a major contributor to classical music. She died in Chicago on June 3rd 1953.

We’ll keep an eye and ear out for you, but it is my understanding that PBS will be airing James Greeson’s hour-long documentary entitled The Caged Bird: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price on Friday, March 30th. Here’s the opening three minute section of the documentary.

In the Musicians of Ma’alwyck and Capital Trio collaboration, Price’s string quartet, 5 Negro Folk Songs in Counterpoint, sets familiar spirituals into classical style, including “Calvary,” “Oh My Darling Clementine,”  “Momma’s Little Baby,” “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” The program fittingly pairs a piano quintet by Dvořák as he was a champion of the music of his homeland, Bohemia, and one who encouraged Americans to find their voice in their musical roots of spirituals, folk songs, and Native American melodies. On the Friday night concert at Schenectady Community College, the program will open with the whimsical Intermezzo for string trio of Zoltán Kodály, who was also an advocate for the music of his native Hungary as well as the developer of an important system of music education. The performers for this program include violinists Hilary Cumming and Ann-Marie Barker Schwartz, violist Andrew Snow, cellist Petia Kassarova and pianist Duncan Cumming.

In case you missed it last Friday, click here to take a listen to WMHT’s Rob Brown and violinist Ann-Marie Barker Schwartz talking about the program. And despite all the newly fallen snow, it is my hope you’ll be able to dig out and catch one of these two concerts if not both. Happy musicking this weekend!


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply