Symphony No. 4

Florence Price

1887 – 1953

Rediscovering a unique voice  Florence Price has earned an enviable position in the Philadelphia Orchestra’s repertoire in recent years. The first known female African American symphonic composer, Price was almost lost to history. Many of her major works narrowly avoided being completely destroyed. A dozen scores, including her two violin concertos and fourth symphony, were found in 2009 in an abandoned house on Chicago’s South Side.    

Ironically, the near loss of these compositions led to a resurgence of interest and appreciation for Price’s work among orchestras, soloists and publishers, giving her work a second life. Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra are some of her biggest proponents, as they’ve already recorded many of her works to ensure their place in the canon. 

Modern audiences are rediscovering Florence Price’s unique voice and the ingenious way she brings together African American culture and European symphonic music. While respecting the classical symphonic form, her fast movements are typically Jubas, an African American style of dance.  

Her immersion in both of these cultures reached its climax in her fourth and final symphony, where she cites both Duke Ellington and Bruckner with ease. This work, which honours the African American musical and European symphonic traditions with equal respect and artfulness, is a major contribution to the American classical repertoire.