Composer Florence Price made history in 1933 when her symphony became the first by a Black woman to be performed by a major American orchestra. The symphony was selected for performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Music Director Frederick Stock after the piece won first prize in the prestigious Wanamaker Competition held the previous year.
While it slipped into obscurity after its premiere, her Symphony No. 1 in E Minor is now experiencing a well-deserved revival in the world of classical music. The symphony will be the lead piece in the 3 p.m. Sun., Feb. 20, performance of the Wichita Symphony at Century II Concert Hall. Tickets can be purchased online at WichitaSymphony.org/events/a-new-world-masterpiece. Masking is required.
Price was born in the South in 1887 and played her first piano recital at age 4, then published her first composition at age 11. Price graduated high school as valedictorian at age 14 and attended the New England Conservatory, graduating with a double major in organ and piano performance.
She returned to Arkansas, married and had children before moving to Chicago in 1927, where her career began to flourish. It was around 1928 when the G. Schirmer and McKinley publishing companies began to issue her songs, piano music, and especially her instructional pieces for piano. She taught music lessons and composed more than 300 works, including symphonies, organ works, piano concertos, works for violin, arrangements of spirituals, art songs, and chamber works.
She died in Chicago in 1953.
It is the hope of many music lovers that Price’s work will someday be as recognized and played as widely as the work of Beethoven, George Gershwin and Aaron Copland.