Notes and Editorial Reviews
A New York Times 25 Best Classical Track Selection for 2019
A WQXR-FM Best Classical Recording of 2019
Florence Price was born in Little Rock, Arkansas and studied at the New England Conservatory, but it was in Chicago that her composing career accelerated. The concert in 1933 at which her Symphony No. 1 in E minor was premiered was the first time a major American orchestra had performed a piece written by an African American woman. Influenced by Dvorak and Coleridge-Taylor, she drew on the wellspring of Negro spirituals and vernacular dances, full of lyricism and syncopation. The Symphony No. 4 in D minor demonstrates her tight ensemble writing, her distinct sense of orchestral color, her Ellingtonian ‘jungle style’ language and her penchant for the ‘juba’ dance. Founded in 1923, the Fort Smith Symphony is the oldest orchestra in the state of Arkansas. The orchestra is a per-service professional ensemble drawn from musicians throughout the region. The orchestra performs classics, pops and educational concerts in the ArcBest Performing Arts Center in downtown Fort Smith.
Both works bear trace influences of folk forms—including, as the musicologist Douglas W. Shadle writes in the liner notes, a reference to “Wade in the Water” during the Fourth’s opening movement. But there are as many sections that seem like a composer channeling her own individual muse. Among the most compelling moments is the close of the Fourth—a scherzo full of slaloming melody (and, in the final minutes, some pleasingly potent tutti chords).
– New York Times
Price’s First Symphony has already been recorded. So it was the Fort Smith orchestra’s premiere recording of her 1945 Fourth, in D Minor, that made news among fans of this long-snubbed composer. The brio of the best Americana is present throughout the work, particularly in its rousing climax.
– New York Times (Seth Colter Walls)