Florence Price’s String Compositions

Er-Gene has been involved in reviving the works of African-American composer, Florence Price (1887-1953).  More information can be found here. In May 2017, she recorded Florence Price’s two violin concertos, a world premiere recording released through Albany Records. It has been cited by The New Yorker, the New York Timesand NPR as an important contribution to American classical music. 

Er-Gene also served as Concertmaster with the Fort Smith Symphony in their recording of Florence Price’s Symphony no. 1 and Symphony no. 4, of which the latter work is a world premiere recording.

Price was a prolific composer, having written over 300 compositions, though many were lost or never performed.  Many of Price’s unpublished manuscripts were found in her home by a couple who came to purchase her former home in Chicago.  The new acquisition was cause for celebration for Price admirers and scholars worldwide, as these papers could have easily been overlooked.  The value of this discovery cannot be emphasized enough.  It provides 21st century classical music scholars and performers a chance to give the public a unique gift of hearing a true American voice in contemporary classical music.  

Read more about Florence Price here.

One of the exciting discoveries was a previously unknown violin concerto.  All previous history books had noted that Price wrote one violin concerto.  Within the new acquisition emerged a second violin concerto.  

This project holds the musical benefit of bringing to light a wonderful contribution to the American classical concerto literature, from an underrepresented yet highly regarded composer.  The example of a world-class accomplishment by an African-American woman will be of great benefit in inspiring younger “outsider” musical talent to achieve and to become the next generation of musicians and composers, despite barriers to success.

Here is a clip from the recording session in Ostrava, Czech Republic, May 2-4, 2017.  

The Documentary

This is an excerpt from “The Caged Bird: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price”, a documentary which traces the eponymous Arkansas native’s life and the culture in which she lived, beginning with her birth in Little Rock in 1887. Welcomed into an extraordinarily gifted family, which moved in the circles of the social set historian Willard Gatewood referred to as “Aristocrats of Color,” Florence grew up in what was, for a time, a congenial environment. Unfortunately, however, Jim Crow laws eventually took hold of Little Rock and much of the South, creating a sort of an American apartheid system that eventually drove Florence Price and many talented people of color to leave it. Florence later settled north, in Chicago during the 1920s. Already well acquainted with many influential individuals, Florence’s circles were greatly expanded, and she came into contact with some of the most prominent African Americans in U.S. history.

The documentary was supported in part by grants from the Arkansas Humanities Council, the Department of Arkansas Heritage, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the University of Arkansas. Filmmaker James Greeson is a professor of music at the University of Arkansas and composer of more than 15 documentary film scores.  

Additional videos showcasing performances of Florence Price compositions:

Five Folksongs in Counterpoint, I. Calvary

String Quartet in G, II. mvt

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Er-Gene grew up in Los Angeles.
Er-Gene aims to continue the work of equity, diversity and inclusion by exploring the ways contemporary American classical music can intersect with, and highlight, forgotten narratives of the past and thus shape the musical values of the present and future.
She currently serves as Full Professor of Violin, Head of Strings and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Arkansas and is a former Wolfson Fellow at Cambridge University in Cambridge, UK. She serves as Concertmaster of Fort Smith Symphony and Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, and is a member of the new music group, Khemia Ensemble.

 

Additional resources:
Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History
University of Arkansas Special Collections
CAP Radio Sacramento.
Local radio station, KUAF.
University of Arkansas Medical Sciences.
Black Grooves Review. 
Colorado Public Radio.
Interlochen Public Radio.
Fayetteville Public Library.
NPR’s Songs We Love.
New York Times.
The New Yorker.

Recordings:
Handel Violin Sonatas
Florence Price Violin Concertos

 
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