Barbara Wright-Pryor comments on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Recording of the Original Orchestration of the Florence Price Concerto in One Movement

Florence B. Price (1887-1953)


Barbara Wright-Pryor comments on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s World Premiere Recording of the Composer’s Original Orchestration of the Florence Price Concerto in One Movement:

Dear Bill and Joshua,

Due to multiple missing manuscripts in the Florence Price ouevre,  in 2010 The Center for Black Music Research (CBMR, established at Columbia College Chicago by researcher Samuel Floyd in 1983) commissioned Trevor Weston, associate professor of music at Drew University, to reconstruct the long-lost orchestral score for Price’s Concerto in One Movement for Piano and Orchestra in order to perform the concerto and release an album of the composer’s works which would become the third issue in the CBMR series Recorded Music of the African Diaspora.
Florence Price’s reconstructed Concerto in One Movement for Piano and Orchestra with Karen Walwyn, piano, and Symphony no. 1 in E minor with Leslie B. Dunner conducting the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble were performed at Chicago’s Harris Theater for Music and Dance on February 17, 2011, to great critical acclaim. The CD recording was released by Albany Records later that same year.
It is a treasure to learn that Price’s manuscript for the Concerto was found among those located in the old abandoned vacation house in Southern Illinois.
I attach herewith program notes I wrote for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2013 performance of Price’s „Mississippi River“ Suite for additional data.
At the time I wrote these program notes I was President of The Chicago Music Association (CMA) of which Florence Price was a member. However, It was President Maude Roberts George (1932-1934) who met with Frederick Stock and personally underwrote the entire cost of the June 15, 1933 history-making performance of Symphony no. 1 in E minor. This long-established fact is recorded in CMA’s Archival Records housed in the Columbia College Chicago Library seems to elude all program notes. Dominique Rene determine and I received digital copies of the entire CMA Ledger when it was archived into the collection.
Congratulations on the successful recording of Florence Price’s Concerto for Piano in One Movement. I await its release.
For the Love of Music
Barbara Wright-Pryor
MEMBER 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA)
-Artistic
  Planning Committee;
-The League of The
   CSOA;
-The African American
   Network of The CSOA;
Rachel Barton Pine
   Foundation’s „Music by
   Black Composers“
The Chicago Crusader
  Music Critic (Ret.)
Past President, Chicago
  Music Association (1996-
   2017)
Program Notes
The Mississippi River
Florence Beatrice (Smith) Price
became the first black female
composer to have a symphony
performed by a major American
orchestra when CSO music director
Frederick Stock and the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra played the
world premiere of her Symphony
no. 1 in E minor on June 15, 1933,
at the Auditorium Theatre during
Chicago’s Century of Progress
Exposition. Price’s work had come
to Stock’s attention when it won
the prestigious Wanamaker Prize
the previous year.
The Chicago Daily News reported:
“It is a faultless work, a work
that speaks its own message
with restraint and yet with
passion . . . worthy of a place in the
regular symphonic repertory.” Later,
it would become known through
the archival records of the Chicago
Music Association (CMA) that
Maude Roberts George, classical
music critic for the Chicago Defender
and president of CMA, of which
Price was a member, underwrote
the June 15 performance.
Although this premiere brought
instant recognition and fame to
Florence Beatrice Price, success as
a composer was not to be hers. She
would “continue to wage an uphill
battle—a battle much larger than
any war that pure talent and musi-
cal skill could win. It was a battle in
which the nation was embroiled—a
dangerous mélange of segregation,
Jim Crow laws, entrenched rac-
ism, and sexism” (Women’s Voices
for Change, March 8, 2013). The
same fate would also befall fellow
Arkansan William Grant Still,
the “Dean of Black Composers”
(whose Afro-American Symphony
was performed by the Rochester
Philharmonic Symphony under
Howard Hanson, the first time
in history that a major American
orchestra had played a symphonic
work by a black composer), and
many others due to rampant,
endemic, and systemic racism.
Florence Price
Born April 9, 1887, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Died June 3, 1953, Chicago, Illinois.

Composed

1934

First Performance
date unknown

These are the first
Chicago Symphony
Orchestra performances

Instrumentation
three flutes and piccolo, two
oboes and english horn, two
clarinets and bass clarinet,
two bassoons and contra-
bassoon, four horns, three
trumpets, three trombones
and tuba, timpani, percus-
sion, harp, strings

Approximate
P
erformance Time
28 minutes