WHAT: Midcoast Symphony Orchestra's Tried and True, Plus a Newer Crew
WHERE: The Ricerfront Center, 46 Cedar Street, Lewiston
WHEN: Sat., March 18, 2023 7 PM to 9 PM
Hiroya Miura, Guest Conductor
Tanner Porter: Propellers in the Sun
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No. 35 in D major, K. 385, “Haffner”
Arcangelo Corelli: Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 4
Florence Price: Symphony No. 3
About Florence Price
Florence Price composed throughout the first half of the twentieth century, and towards the end of her life she gained considerable fame in a variety of circles: Marian Anderson sang her songs; the Marine Band played some of her music, and the Halle Orchestra in England commissioned her to write an overture. After her death in 1953, however, her music occupied only small corners of the repertory until the recent intensification of interest in making the classical music canon more fully representative.
She was educated at the New England Conservatory, paused her large-scale composing in the early days of her marriage and child-rearing, but resumed writing seriously when the family relocated to Chicago in 1927. Partly influenced by the ideals of the Harlem Renaissance, Price, like other creative artists of the time, aimed to include and “elevate” African American elements within a musical style that was largely based on late Romantic music, especially that of Dvorák, who also included and transformed national idioms within a largely Germanic style.
Price wrote three symphonies, her first being the first work by an African-American woman to be performed by a major orchestra (the Chicago Symphony). Her Third Symphony, her last, was written in 1938-39. In 1940, she wrote to Eric Schwass, an administrator of the Michigan WPA orchestra, in language that we would no longer use about race, “[The symphony] is intended to be Negroid in character and expression. In it no attempt, however, has been made to project Negro music solely in the purely traditional manner. None of the themes are adaptations or derivations of folk songs.”
The references to African-American music in the Third Symphony are unmistakable—the most prominent being melodies reminiscent of spirituals and rhythms born of African American dance (especially in the third movement). However, even when this material stands out from its immediate context, it always relates intimately to material elsewhere in its movement. The harmonic language is mostly reminiscent of Brahms or Dvorák, and even Wagner, but there are moments when a more modern idiom—more like Debussy or Ravel—appears. Throughout the work, Price features the brass and wind instruments in important melodic roles, especially for the more lyrical material, and often writes for “choirs” of instruments, giving the work as a whole a distinctive color.