The Philadelphia Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
Dvořák | Szymanowski | Price
This year The Philadelphia Orchestra celebrates an important rediscovery. By programming Florence Price, the conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin features a composer whose works gained considerable attention in the USA in the Thirties and Forties by incorporating the echoes of the spirituals into a classic symphonic form. Pieces by Antonín Dvořák and Karol Szymanowski provide a rousing opening.
Who was Florence Price? She combined echoes of the spirituals, jazz harmonics and African rhythms with an orchestral tone language that followed on stylistically from Antonín Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony to create “something thoroughly American” (Yannick Nézet-Séguin). The African-American composer graduated with distinction from the New England Conservatory in Boston at a time of structural sexual and racial discrimination in the USA which meant that, for official purposes, she had to claim to be Mexican. After a series of teaching appointments in the southern states that were her home, in 1927 she left following severe racist attacks for Chicago, where African-American artists were already leading a social and cultural renaissance. Here Price’s First Symphony won the coveted Rodman Wanamaker Prize and was given its world premiere by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, causing a sensation at the time. However, this success was of little use to the composer, as her works were subsequently unable to find a publisher and were forgotten after her death in 1953 – it was not until 2009 that workmen found a store of her lost manuscripts in the attic of her abandoned summerhouse in Illinois. Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who has been an advocate of the rediscovery of Price’s works for some time, now presents the composer’s First Symphony with his Philadelphia Orchestra. Before this, the world-renowned star violinist Lisa Batiashvili will perform the exotic and impressionistic First Violin Concerto by Karol Szymanowski, and Dvořák’s turbulent concert overture “Carnival” will provide a rousing opening.