Florence Price
Born April 9, 1887, in Little Rock, Arkansas
Died June 3, 1953, in Chicago, Illinois
2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings, solo violin
Performance time
23 minutes
Last Performed by the TSO
TSO Premiere: February 16, 2024

Florence Price is famous today as the first African-American woman to have a work performed by a major symphony orchestra, but most of her music went unnoticed in her own time. Much of it has had to wait for the 21st century to find an audience. Price’s first violin concerto was seemingly never played in its composer’s lifetime. The work was uncovered posthumously in an unlikely find: several major works of Price, including both of her concertos for violin, were discovered in 2009 in a dilapidated house in St. Anne, Illinois, which the composer had used as a summer home. This discovery led to an increase of interest in Price’s work, and the violin concertos have started to enter the standard repertoire.

The first violin concerto is set in D Major and has been noted as being similar in some respects to Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto in the same key, particularly evident in the openings of both works. Despite this, the concerto unmistakably evinces Price’s own style, being inflected with blue notes and the sound of African-American spirituals. The work follows the three-movement structure of 19th century concertos, though with a first movement in a moderate tempo, rather than the more usual fast opening. After a soulful and pastoral andante, the final movement provides a fast and relatively short close to the concerto.

Benjamin P. Skoronski