PHOENIX, AZ – The Phoenix Symphony performs the historic work of Florence Price this weekend, April 12th and 13th, under the baton of Virginia G. Piper music director Tito Muñoz.
Florence Price was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1887, and received music lessons from her mother when none of the leading white teachers in town would teach her. She attended the New England Conservatory in Boston, one of the few schools to accept black students, and earned two degrees. After returning to Little Rock to start a family, she moved to Chicago in 1927 to escape racial oppression.
In February 1932, Florence Price entered her First Symphony and three other works into the Rodman Wanamaker Competition, where her Symphony received the first place $500 prize. The award brought Price recognition and caught the attention of Frederick Stock, conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who premiered the work in June 1933. The performance marked the first time a major orchestra played music by an African-American woman, and made her one of the first African-American classical composers to win national attention.
However, Florence Price still remains in partial obscurity, rarely performed by professional orchestras. As she wrote in a 1943 letter to then conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, “My dear Dr. Koussevitzky, To begin with I have two handicaps – those of sex and race. I am a woman; and I have some Negro blood in my veins.”
The Phoenix Symphony will perform Florence Price’s Symphony No. 1 paired with Argentinian tango composer Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires and living African-American woman composer Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst. Performances are Friday, April 12 at 7:30pm and Saturday, April 13 at 7:30pm.