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Work of the Week – Florence B. Price: Concert Overture No. 2

On 8 March, the world celebrates the 111th International Women’s Day. There seems no better occasion to take a look at female composers and their works in the Schott catalogue . There have certainly been moves recently further to promote the myriad of works by female composers. In spite of this, the work of male composers still dominates the music scene. One piece that remains largely unknown is the Concert Overture No. 2 for full orchestra by Florence Beatrice Price. 

Concert Overture No. 2 by Florence B. Price – an exemplary definition of her musical style

Price became the first African-American woman to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra. Cultural and musical influences both of West Africa and the American South can be detected throughout her oeuvre. In Concert Overture No. 2, Price uses a number of spirituals: Go Down Moses, Every Time I Feel the Spirit and Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen. The work is characterised by an opulent orchestration, emotive lyricism, yearning instrumental solos and infusion of traditional African-American music. In addition to techniques of call and response, Price uses jazz-influences, such as pentatonic scales, syncopation and bluenotes. Her personal style is clearly defined in this work. Despite her success as a composer, life threw many challenges in the way of Price: Racial tensions forced her to move to Chicago, and, after a divorce, she was left to raise her two children as a single mother. 

That she managed to compose, and on such a large and fruitful scale, is astonishing. Shirley J. Thompson, British composer and scholar 

For more information on women composers and their works, the current edition of the Schott Journal features notable works by female composers and is available to download for free.    



photo: Florence Beatrice Price with her daughter, Florence Louise Robinson