Review of LNT144: Fantasie Nègre - The Piano Music of Florence Price
Clive Paget, Musical America
An insightful survey of works by Florence Price is one of four new albums exploring nearly a century of solo piano music by American composers. Born in 1887 in Little Rock, Price trained at the New England Conservatory before migrating to Chicago in 1927. In 1933 she made history as the first Black woman to have a symphony performed by a major U.S. orchestra when the Chicago Symphony premiered her Symphony No 1.
Pianist and musicologist Samantha Ege has based her album around the four pieces that Price termed Fantasies Nègre, a rhapsodic form that incorporates tunes and moods reflective of her African heritage. All are skillfully crafted and tuneful works in the bluesy key of E minor with “Fantaisie Nègre No. 1” quoting the spiritual “Sinner, Please Don’t Let This Harvest Pass.” The other three were only rediscovered in 2009 and, though less direct, hint at African American traditional melodies; they call for a virtuoso technique suggestive of Price’s musical upbringing as part of a world still in thrall to German Romanticism. Ege’s manual dexterity is more than up to these often-demanding works, each of which weighs in at a meaty ten minutes. The disc also includes three later pieces dubbed “Snapshots,” which echo the composer’s love of the French Impressionists, and three amiable untitled sketches. Price, who died in 1953, has been enjoying a renaissance in recent years. This disc should add to her growing reputation.