Florence B. Price, American composer

The Heart of a Woman, The Life and music of Florence B. Price

New book by Rae Linda Brown, recently published by University of Illinois Press, 2020, now at the Central Arkansas Library.

Florence B. Price (April 9, 1887-June 3, 1953) and William Grant Still (May 11, 1895-December 3, 1978) were raised in the same Little Rock neighborhood and were lifelong friends. Both can be viewed as Neo-Romantic composers.

According to Brown:

“Florence Price was the most widely known African American woman composer from the 1930s to her death in 1953. She achieved national recognition when her Symphony in E Minor was premiered by the Chicago Symphony in 1913…The concert marked the first performance of a large-scale work by a black woman to be performed by a major American orchestra.”

“I have told Florence Price’s story in the fullest context of her life as an African American woman in the vibrant cities in which she lived – in Little Rock, Boston, Atlanta and Chicago. Only through an understanding of the social, political and economic milieu can the reader more fully appreciate Price’s music and the context in which it was written. Particular attention is given to the black classical music tradition in these cities, which is often overshadowed by the proliferation of jazz, blues and gospel music.”

Remarkably, Price completed over 300 works in diverse genres: 4 symphonies, orchestral suites, art songs, vocal and choral music, including arrangements of spirituals, a piano sonata, a piano concerto, violin concertos, a piano quintet, multiple works for the organ and more. Brown gives a great deal of attention to the analysis of some of Price’s major works. Much of Price’s music can now be seen and heard on youtube.com.

Price’s story is a cautionary tale about what can happen to one’s artistic output if steps are not taken to preserve it while one is alive! If it hadn’t been for a chance find in 2009 by a new owner of an abandoned vacation cottage once used by Price much of her music would have been lost. They found many previously unknown pieces, including  two violin concertos and her Fourth Symphony. Much of Price’s work is now archived at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Our own Linda Holzer, Professor of Piano and Music at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, has often championed American composers, especially women composers. She has featured works by Florence Price on many of her recitals. Her Doctoral Dissertation Treatise was entitled Selected Solo Piano Music of Florence B. Price. Watch for future recitals of Price’s music and please visit Professor Holzer’s website: http://www.lindaholzermusic.com/