Florence Price – Symphony No. 1 in E minor (1932)

Florence Price (1887-1953)

Symphony No. 1 in E minor

I. Allegro non troppo
II. Largo, Maestoso
III. Allegro
IV. Presto

New Black Repertory Ensemble
Leslie B. Dunner, conductor

Florence Beatrice Price was an American classical composer. She was the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra.

Florence Beatrice Smith was born to Florence Gulliver and James H. Smith on April 9, 1887, in Little Rock, Arkansas, one of three children in a mixed-race family. Despite racial issues of the era, her family was well respected and did well within their community. Her father was a dentist and her mother was a music teacher who guided Florence’s early musical training. She had her first piano performance at the age of four and went on to have her first composition published at the age of 11.

By the time she was 14, Florence had graduated from Capitol High School at the top of her class and was enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music with a major in piano and organ. Initially, she pretended to be Mexican to avoid the prejudice people had toward African-Americans at the time. At the Conservatory, she was able to study composition and counterpoint with composers George Chadwick and Frederick Converse. Also while there, she wrote her first string trio and symphony. She graduated in 1906 with honors and both an artist diploma in organ and a teaching certificate.

She taught in Arkansas briefly before moving to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1910, where she became the head of Clark Atlanta University’s music department. In 1912, she married Thomas J. Price, a lawyer, and moved back to Little Rock, Arkansas. After a series of racial incidents in Little Rock, particularly a lynching in 1927, the family moved to Chicago, where Florence Price began a new and fulfilling period in her compositional career. She studied composition, orchestration, and organ with the leading teachers in the city including Arthur Olaf Anderson, Carl Busch, Wesley La Violette, and Leo Sowerby, and published four pieces for piano in 1928. While in Chicago, Price was at various times enrolled at the Chicago Musical College, Chicago Teacher’s College, University of Chicago, and American Conservatory of Music, studying languages and liberal arts subjects as well as music.

Financial struggles led to a divorce in 1931, and Florence became a single mother to her two daughters. To make ends meet, she worked as an organist for silent film screenings and composed songs for radio ads under a pen name. During this time, Price lived with friends and eventually moved in with her student and friend, Margaret Bonds, also a black pianist and composer. This friendship connected Price with writer Langston Hughes and contralto Marian Anderson, both prominent figures in the art world who aided in Price’s future success as a composer. Together, Price and Bonds began to achieve national recognition for their compositions and performances. In 1932, both Price and Bonds submitted compositions for Wanamaker Foundation Awards. Price won first prize with her Symphony in E minor, and third for her Piano Sonata, earning her a $500 prize. Bonds came in first place in the song category, with a song entitled “Sea Ghost.” The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Frederick Stock, premiered the Symphony on June 15, 1933, making Price’s piece the first composition by an African-American woman to be played by a major orchestra.

Price was inducted into the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers in 1940 for her work as a composer. In 1949, Price published two of her spiritual arrangements, “I Am Bound for the Kingdom,” and “I’m Workin’ on My Buildin'”, and dedicated them to Marian Anderson, who performed them on a regular basis.

On June 3, 1953, Price died from a stroke in Chicago, Illinois. Following her death, much of her work was overshadowed as new musical styles emerged that fit the changing tastes of modern society. Some of her work was lost, but as more African-American and female composers have gained attention for their works, so has Price. In 2001, the Women’s Philharmonic created an album of some of her work. Pianist Karen Walwyn and The New Black Repertory Ensemble performed Price’s “Concerto in One Movement” and “Symphony in E minor” in December 2011.


Maurice Ravel – String Quartet in F major (1903)

– Composer: Joseph-Maurice Ravel (7 March 1875 — 28 December 1937)
– Performers: Alban Berg Quartett
– Year of recording: 1984

String quartet in F major, written in 1903.

00:00 – I. Allegro moderato. Très doux
07:41 – II. Assez vif. Très rythmé
14:34 – III. Très lent
23:53 – IV. Vif et agité

The Quartet in F major was Ravel’s final submission to the Prix de Rome and the Conservatoire de Paris. The composition was rejected by both institutions soon after its premier on 5 March 1904 by the Heymann Quartet. The quartet received mixed reviews from the Parisian press and local academia. Gabriel Fauré, to whom the work is dedicated, described the last movement as “stunted, badly balanced, in fact a failure.” Ravel himself commented on the work, “My Quartet in F major responds to a desire for musical construction, which undoubtedly is inadequately realized but which emerges much more clearly than in my preceding compositions.”

As a result of major criticism and rejection, a frustrated Ravel left the Conservatoire in 1905 following what was later called the Ravel Affair. Ravel’s loss during the 1904 Prix de Rome and rejection from the Conservatoire de Paris catapulted his career not backwards but forward: a sympathetic public rallied behind his compositions and musical style. In 1905, Claude Debussy wrote to Ravel: “In the name of the gods of music and in my own, do not touch a single note you have written in your Quartet.”

Ravel’s string Quartet in F major stands as one of the most widely performed chamber music works in the classical repertoire, representing Ravel’s early achievements and rise from obscurity. On CD, it is often coupled with Debussy’s own string quartet. The quartet follows a strict four movement classical structure: Moderato très doux begins as a sonata form allegro, the following Assez vif-Très rythmé functions as the quartet’s scherzo, while Très lent acts as a contrasting foil. The last movement, Vif et agité, reintroduces themes from the earlier passages and ends with a striking finale.

Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 17, Op. 31/2 “Tempest” III. Allegretto (Kempff)

Allegretto, third movement from Piano Sonata No. 17, Op. 31/2

Wilhelm Kempff, piano (Live)

The Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2, was composed in 1801/02 by Ludwig van Beethoven. It is usually referred to as “The Tempest” (or Der Sturm in his native German), but this title was not given by him, or indeed referred to as such during his lifetime; instead, it comes from a claim by his associate Anton Schindler that the sonata was inspired by the Shakespeare play. However, much of Schindler’s information is distrusted by classical music scholars. Renowned British music scholar, Donald Francis Tovey, in his authoritative book A Companion to Beethoven’s Pianoforte Sonatas, states that “The story that Beethoven connected this sonata with The Tempest is evidently one of many such inventions by his biographer Anton Schindler”. The third movement, in the key of D minor, is very moving, first flowing with emotion and then reaching a climax, before moving into an extended development section which mainly focuses on the opening figure of the movement, reaching a climax at measures 169-173. The recapitulation is preceded by an extensive cadenza-like passage of sixteenth notes for the right hand and the coda which follows is quite substantial, reaching what can be considered the climax of the movement at measure 381, a fortissimo falling chromatic scale.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

The music is featured in the movie CALL ME BY YOUR NAME:

Deok-Vin Lee – #####d[^_^]b##### (2016)


Deok-Vin Lee (b. 1986) is a Korean composer, currently based in Berlin. He graduated from music college of Kyunghee University, Seoul (2012) and is studying at Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden under Mark Andre and Manos Tsangaris. He had been awarded Ad Infinitum scholarship from Ad Infinitum Foundation, Lübeck (2013-2014). He was selected by the Fourth International Young Composer Academy, Tchaikovsky city and presented his piece (2014). His piece was performed in Donaueschinger Musiktage (Next Generation Off-Concert, 2014). His works had been performed by ensemble recherche (Freiburg), Auditivvokal (Dresden), Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble (Moscow), Vertigo Ensemble (Bern), Absolut Trio (Bern).

List of works:
Music for water and glasses for 11 performers (2011)
Sonnets for string quartet (2012)
Prufrock for ensemble (2013)
Immanente Zeit for quartet (2014)
Klavierstück for electronic (2014)
Immanente Zeit II for four voices (2014)
Added for quartet (2014)
#####d[^_^]b##### (2016)

Ravel’s ‘Pavane pour une infante défunte’


Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Infanta) is a well-known piece written for solo piano by the French composer Maurice Ravel in 1899 when he was studying composition at the Conservatoire de Paris under Gabriel Fauré. Ravel also published an orchestrated version of the Pavane in 1910; it is scored for two flutes, oboe, two clarinets (in B-flat), two bassoons, two horns, harp, and strings. A typical performance of the piece lasts between six and seven minutes. It is widely considered a masterpiece.

Conductor: Andre Previn
Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
Recording: 1980.

Stravinsky’s ‘Suite For Small Orchestra No.1 and No.2’ recorded in Italy in 1953

The Suite For Small Orchestra No.1 was composed between 1917 and 1925. This miniature work, comprising an introduction and three national dances, is notable for its prominent rhythms and rich orchestral colouring.

Suite No.2 is extremely witty and rhythmically varied. The employment of the piano obligato, tuba, and the colourful application of the percussion instruments are described as particularly original orchestral effects.

Conductor: Hermann Scherchen
Orchestra: Orchestra Sinfonica della Rai di Torino
Recording: November 6, 1953

Did you know that Verdi composed a string quartet?


Giuseppe Verdi’s String Quartet in E minor was written in the spring of 1873 during a production of Aida in Naples. It is the only surviving chamber music work in Verdi’s catalogue.

Verdi’s production of Aida in early March, 1873 was delayed due to the sudden illness of soprano Teresa Stolz. Verdi focused his time in Naples on the writing of his first chamber work, the String Quartet in E minor. The work was premiered two days after the opening of Aida during an informal recital at his hotel on April 1, 1873. The names of the original performers survive only as Pinto brothers, violins, Salvadore, viola, and Giarritiello, cello.

Verdi commented on the work, saying “I’ve written a Quartet in my leisure moments in Naples. I had it performed one evening in my house, without attaching the least importance to it and without inviting anyone in particular. Only the seven or eight persons who usually come to visit me were present. I don’t know whether the Quartet is beautiful or ugly, but I do know that it’s a Quartet!”

The quartet also exists in a version for string orchestra.

The Quartet is scored for the usual string quartet complement of two violins, viola, and cello.

  1. Allegro
  2. Andantino
  3. Prestissimo
  4. Scherzo Fuga. Allegro assai mosso


Claude Debussy – La Demoiselle élue (1959 recording)

La Damoiselle élue (The Blessed Damozel), L. 62, is a cantata for two soloists, female choir, and orchestra, composed by Claude Debussy in 1887–1889 based on a text by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. It premiered in Paris in 1893.

Nadine Saterereau, Giovanna Fiorini, soloists
Orchestra sinfonica e coro della RAI di Torino, orchestra
Sergiu Celibidache, conductor
30.01.59, recording date

Iannis Xenakis – Empreintes (For Orchestra) (1975)

Xenakis made use of the resources of the expanded modern orchestra throughout his composing career. Visceral gestures‚ prolonged in sequences of vibrant inner activity‚ typify Xenakis’s Pythagorean ballet for Balanchine‚ Antikhthon (1971). The procedure is fined down in 1974’s Noomena‚ whose chains of sound react against each other at a dizzying rate of velocity‚ while Empreintes (1975) heralds a new phase in its more sustained growth towards a laconic‚ Stravinskian close.

Orchestra – Orchestre Philharmonique Du Luxembourg
Conductor – Arturo Tamayo

Iannis Xenakis – Aroura (for string orchestra) (1971)

Aroura is a composition for strings by Greek/French composer Iannis Xenakis. It was composed in 1971.

The title of this composition should be translated as “Earth”. It was first performed on 24 August 1971, at the Lucerne Festival. It was premiered by Rudolf Baumgartner with the festival’s Lucerne Festival Strings. It was published shortly after by Éditions Salabert.

The piece is in only one movement and takes around 12 minutes to perform. It is scored for four first violins, three second violins, two violas, two cellos and one double bass, even though it is clarified by Xenakis that it can also be performed by a larger string orchestra or ensemble. Aroura makes an extensive use of glissandos, jagged chords, sound clusters and other techniques exploited in avant-garde movements. The piece has a tempo of 𝅗𝅥 = 60 (which means two beats per second). The register of the piece ranges from a C1 (played by the double bass) to D8, played by one of the first violins. First and second violins rarely play unison, but each of the violinist has their own line. Xenakis uses graphic notation up to six times in the score, the first one being the opening of the composition.

In November 29, 1975, Elgar Howarth with the New Philharmonia Orchestra recorded the piece in Kingsway Hall, in London. The recording was released by Decca and Explore Records.