Delve into the marvelous sound world of Florence Price every day this week at 1:00pm  as we continue to celebrate the lush tapestry of music of black composers.

Monday, February 19: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major (1939)

Tuesday, February 20: Symphony no. 3 (1938-1940)

Wednesday, February 21:Piano Quintet in A minor (1936?)

Thursday, February 22: Mississippi Suite (1934)

Friday, February 23: Symphony no.1 (1931-1932)

Born in Little Rock Arkansas in 1887 Florence Price grew up with a Mother who was a music teacher and a Father who was a dentist. Her talent for music emerged early on and she would go to be educated at the New England Conservatory of Music, graduating with honors in 1910 majoring in piano and organ.

After graduation she moved back home to Little Rock, Arkansas where she married Thomas J. Price. However, due to the racial tensions, the stiff Jim Crow Laws and a lynching that took place near her husband’s office, the family decided to move north to Chicago. It was in Chicago where Price continued to study, in particular composition, and harmony.

Price’s marriage was not a happy one. Thomas Price was an abusive man who had a terrible temper. The two divorced in 1931, leaving Price her to raise two daughters. She made ends meet by performing for silent movie theatres in Chicago, and composing jingles for radio ads.

It was in 1932 where Price’s compositional career took off. Her symphony in E minor took first prize in the Wannamaker Foundation Awards. This win bought Price’s music to the forefront of the Chicago musical scene, and in 1933 her Symphony in E minor would be performed by the Chicago symphony Orchestra, making it the first work by and African American Women composer to be performed by a major orchestra.

After this performance by the Chicago Symphony she continued to compose, perform and teach with great success. After her death in 1953 much of her compositions were overshadowed by new musical tastes of the time and the avant-garde movement that became prominent, in particularly in academic musical circles. Most of her music was thought to have been lost for eternity after she passed away.

In 2009 a major discovery of Price’s music was discovered in a run-down house on the outskirts of St. Anne, Illinois. This discovery has proved to be instrumental in helping to revive her legacy in American music. More and more performers are recording her works and because of their fantastic quality, Price’s footprint on American twentieth century music is becoming much more prominent.

Price was very well aware of the life situation she was in, she once said,” I have two handicaps - those of sex and race.” Thankfully with the benefit of hindsight and the discovery of her old manuscripts these old handicaps and attitudes towards women composing music are becoming insignificant.

The music of Florence Price is a brilliant mixture of lush expressive romanticism, as exemplified in Dvorak and Brahms, ragtime, African-American spirituals, and jazz. Price was very much a product of her environment and what she was hearing at that time. She took these influences and successfully fused them into a harmonic and melodic language that is both pleasing to listen to but also singularly unique.

Check out Chris Wolf's conversation with Paul Laraia of The Catalyst Quartet. The quartet has recorded a full CD featuring Price's chamber music.

Tune in at 1:00pm every day this week to hear this remarkable music!