Symphony No. 3; Ethiopia’s Shadow in America; The Mississippi River
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra/John Jeter
Naxos 8.559897 66:48 mins
If you still haven’t tried the music of Florence Price, it’s high time you did because you’ve been missing a treat. The composer was the first African-American woman to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra – the Chicago Symphony – and in her lifetime she enjoyed a very good degree of recognition. But after her death in 1953, Price’s works vanished from view: racism, sexism and a then-fashionable academic scorn for tonal music all had a role to play. When a treasure-trove of her manuscripts turned up about 12 years ago, it aided a gathering surge of interest in her music, and not before time.
Price draws directly on the music and history of her cultural heritage – the Juba dance in the Symphony No. 3, the spirituals she suggests in The Mississippi River and the programmatic outline of Ethiopia’s Shadow in America are just a few examples – and she fuses all this seamlessly with classical language and structures. The orchestration is vivid and slightly post-Dvořák in nature; the atmosphere can transport us to her time and place, yet never feels dated.
The result in this recording is not only inspiring but enjoyable, and not only interesting for our times but of splendid and durable quality. The ORF and Jeter provide lively, well balanced and sympathetically played accounts, with good, clear recorded sound – a valuable addition to any library and performances that will not only help the increasing recognition this music deserves, but will be enjoyed time and again.