Composers Datebook

Florence Price

Florence Price (1887 – 1953) Symphony No. 3 in c Women’s Philharmonic; Apo Hsu, cond. Koch 7518-2

Composers Datebook for November 6, 2020


November 06, 2020


The American composer Florence Price wrote three symphonies in all. Her Symphony No. 1 was premiered by the Chicago Symphony in 1933 and marked the first time a composition by an African-American woman was played by a major American orchestra. The score for her second symphony is lost. Her third symphony, commissioned by the WPA Federal Music Project, was premiered on today’s date in 1940 by the Detroit Civic Orchestra.

Price was born in 1887, in Little Rock, Arkansas, one of three children in a mixed-race family. Her mother was a music teacher who guided Florence's early musical training. At age 14, she enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music, where she pretended to be Mexican to avoid the Ivy League racial prejudice of that time.

After teaching in the South, Price moved to Chicago in 1927, where she became acquainted with the writer Langston Hughes and contralto Marian Anderson, both prominent figures in the African-American arts scene, who both helped promote Price's music.

Price died in 1953. After decades of neglect, early 21st century performances and recordings of her works have helped revive interest in her life and career.

Music Played in Today's Program

Florence Price (1887 – 1953) Symphony No. 3 in c Women’s Philharmonic; Apo Hsu, cond. Koch 7518-2

On This Day


  • 1814 - Belgian inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax, in Dinant; He invented the instrument around 1840, and was granted a 15-year patent in 1846;

  • 1854 - American composer and bandmaster John Philip Sousa, in Washington, D.C.;

  • 1860 - Polish composer, piano virtuoso, and statesman, Ignace Jan Paderewski, in Russian Poland (Gregorian date: Nov. 18);


  • 1672 - German composer Heinrich Schütz, age 87, in Dresden;

  • 1795 - Czech-born German opera composer Jiri Antonin (Georg Anton)Benda, age 73, in Köstritz;

  • 1893 - Russian composer Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, age 53, dies of cholera after drinking un-boiled water during an epidemic in St. Petersburg (see Julian date: Oct. 25); Some speculate this was a deliberate and suicidal act;

  • 1965 - Franco-American composer Edgard (or Edgar) Varèse, age 81, in New York City;


  • 1825 - Beethoven: String Quartet in a, Op.132, in Vienna, by the Schuppanzigh Quartet; The was the first public performance (The same players performed the work at a private performance two months earlier, on September 9, for an audience of fourteen at the Tavern “Zum Wilden Mann” in Vienna);

  • 1891 - Tchaikovsky: symphonic balled “The Voyevode” in Moscow (Gregorian date: Nov. 18);

  • 1902 - Cilea: opera, "Adriana Lecouvreur" in Milan at the Teatro Lirico;

  • 1913 - Saint-Saëns: "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso" for violin and orchestra, in Paris;

  • 1924 - Janácek: opera "The Cunning Little Vixen," in Brno at the National Theater;

  • 1935 - first complete performance of Walton: Symphony No. 1, by the BBC Symphony, Sir Hamilton Harty conducting; Harty had conducted the premiere performance of this work's first three movements (the fourth and final movement had not yet been written) on a London Philharmonic concert of Dec. 3, 1934;

  • 1936 - Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 3, by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting;

  • 1940 - Florence Price: Symphony No. 3, in Detroit, by the Michigan WPA Symphony, Valter Poole conducting; Also on the program was Price’s Piano Concerto (which had premiered earlier in Chicago) with the composer as soloist; First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt attended a rehearsal for this concert, and wrote favorably about Price’s Symphony in her national newspaper column “My Day” for November 14, 1940;

  • 1943 - Orff: "Catulli carmina," in Leipzig at the Städische Bühnen;

  • 1950 - Copland: Clarinet Concerto, on an NBC Symphony broadcast conducted by Fritz Reiner, with Benny Goodman as soloist;

  • 1953 - Nikolaus Nakokov: Cello Concerto ("Les Hommages"), with Lorne Munroe, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy conducting;

  • 1976 - Andrew Imbrie: opera "Angle of Repose," in San Francisco;

  • 1999 - Elisabetta Brusa: “Adagio” for strings, by the Virtuosi of Toronto, Fabio Mastrangelo conducting;

  • 2004 - Augusta Read Thomas: "Brass Rush" for brass band, by the Illinois Brass Band at the U.S. Open Brass Band Competition in Arlignton Heights, Il.


  • 1717 - J.S. Bach temporarily imprisoned by his employer, Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar, who was upset that Bach had taken another post (with Prince Leopold of Coethen) without first securing the Duke's permission to do so.