Tomorrow will mark the release of the World Premiere recording of Florence Price’s Symphony No. 4. Those looking for a tiny appetizer in anticipation of tomorrow’s main course will enjoy this live recording of the opening of a movement from Price’s Quartet in G Major. I performed this full strings with a small ensemble assembled for an Advent Cantata service at Hunt’s Memorial UMC where I serve as Music Director. I highly recommend this excerpt for use in a variety of settings, including–in this case–church services when looking for a short, uplifting, and accessible selection for strings. In our service, we used this as an instrumental Offertory. We performed

We performed measures 339-379, for a total duration of nearly 2 minutes. To download this fragment, click this button:

Jordan Randall Smith leads musicians at Hunt’s Church. December 16, 2018.

Jordan Randall Smith leads musicians at Hunt’s Church. December 16, 2018.

Florence Price wrote several works for string quartet. Among them is her String Quartet in G Major of 1929 from which this excerpt comes. It has an incandescent mid-century gloss with shimmering textures and planing chords that immediately call early Hollywood to mind, though with an unmissable originality. Its subtle chromaticism makes it easily playable on a first read, though craft and careful attention to detail is apparent.

Several quality videos of this work already exist, all of them in the original version for quartet. Two of them include violinist Er-Gene Kahng, who edited the edition from which we performed. As the videos below will show, some possible bowing options may ease execution, but they also have a chance of obscuring Price’s intended phrasing. The one advantage to performance using a small string ensemble or large orchestral string section is that these issues of phrase can easily be glossed over with the standard amount of differentiation in bow changes on long notes or phrases one would expect to see and hear. That said, the piece was indeed intended for quartet, and as you can hear, the transparency only helps to further reinforce the silky, gliding texture that Price originally envisioned.

Kahng is also well-known for her premiere recordings of both of Price’s Violin Concerti. See below for more information on this album as well as the Symphony No. 4 recording previously mentioned.

A final note to string teachers: in many states, there is an option to perform an “off-menu” selection for contest. That is, it is possible to perform a work at your annual contest which does not appear on the state’s approved list of repertoire. I would highly recommend this selection as a way to perform excellent American art music, and of increasing representation among women and persons of color in your student’s concert programming in the process. Please contact me or reach out to Er-Gene Kahng to learn more about this excellent work.

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Jordan Randall Smith is the Music Director of Symphony Number One.