Fantasie Nègre Nos 1-4; Untitled Sketches Nos 1-3; Snapshots
Samantha Ege (piano)
Lorelt LNT 144 53:56 mins
From its digital release on International Women’s Day – marked with a lecture-recital broadcast from Lincoln College, Oxford, where soloist Samantha Ege is a research fellow (see YouTube) – to its disc release scheduled to coincide with Florence Price’s birthday, every aspect of this recording has been thoughtfully considered.
Too often, Price (1887-1953) has been overlooked, but happily the African-American composer’s work is the subject of a revisionist revival (her Third Symphony featured on BBC Music CD Vol. 29 No. 1). Many manuscripts are still being discovered, including that of Fantasie Nègre No. 3, which Ege reconstructed while doing research in Arkansas. This piece – along with the fourth fantasy, three untitled sketches and Snapshots (‘Lake Mirror’, ‘Moon Behind a Cloud’, ‘Flame’) – has its first recording here. Like the other fantasies, No. 3 is packed with velvety ascending-descending passages and expressive, declamatory middle-range melodies. After a Chopinesque opening, Price subtly introduces a theme drawn from African-American folksong, which, through otherwise unremarkable development, creates a fascinating mesh of soundworlds. Ege is an accomplished and absorbing guide.
Fantasie Nègre No. 1, composed in 1929 (the rest were written in 1932), begins with rippling semi-quavers that introduce the free-form style. The melody is taken from the spiritual ‘Sinner, Please Don’t Let This Harvest Pass’, and, like the subsequent fantasies in the series, the work juxtaposes pentatonic scales against the given key.
The short additional pieces are enjoyable, if less interesting, examples of Price’s neo-Romantic idiom.