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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Friday, November 6

Florence Price

Synopsis

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

Additional Information

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