Sonata in E minor - ii. Andante - Florence Price

This week, I am sharing pianist Samantha Ege's performance of the second movement from Florence Price's Sonata in E minor.

Florence Price (1887-1953) was the first Black woman composer to have a work performed by a major American symphony. Her contributions to the American classical music repertoire are  beginning to be recognized as she struggled against racism and sexism during her lifetime. Florence was born to a mixed race family in Little Rock, Arkansas, where her mother taught music and her father worked as dentist. A brilliant student and musician, she began piano study at the age of 4, and published her first composition at the age of 11. She graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music, where she studied piano, organ, and composition, before the age of 20. After teaching several years at the black college, Clark Atlanta University, she married a lawyer and returned to Arkansas.

Fearing the continuous racial unrest in the 1920s, her family moved to Chicago and she divorced her husband, eventually moving in with the Black pianist and composer, Margaret Bonds. Florence worked playing the piano and organ in movie theaters, and composing music for ads on the radio. Margaret and Florence supported each other in their pursuit of composition. Florence had a breakthrough in 1933, when her Symphony in E minor won first prize in the Wanamaker Foundation Awards and was consequently premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. During her lifetime, a number of other works received performances by ensembles in Detroit, and Chicago,  including 3 more symphonies, 4 concertos, and numerous piano, and organ works. Her arrangements of spirituals were regularly heard in performances of the great singer Marian Anderson.

While some composers have estates or ties to academic institutions to continue disseminating their music after their deaths, Florence's music was largely forgotten until recent efforts by Americans to recognize the artistic and scholarly contributions of Black people and women. A large collection of Florence's manuscripts was discovered in 2009, and her works can now be purchased commercially.

The performer, Dr. Samantha Ege, is a pianist and musicologist (a researcher in the history of music). She is in expert in the life and music of Florence Price and has performed the composers music in Europe, Asia, and North America.