American composer

SoNA releases the “Quintet” of an African-American composer

Florence Price receives a lot more attention than she did during her lifetime.

Born in 1887 to a middle-class family in Little Rock, Price attended the New England Conservatory, one of the few conservatories to welcome African Americans at the time. But it wasn’t until 1931, after moving her family to Chicago and divorcing her abusive husband, that Price began writing music for the orchestral world. She faced two challenges, she said in a 1943 letter to conductor Serge Koussevitzky: “My dear Dr. Koussevitzky, To begin with, I have two disabilities – those of gender and race. I’m a woman ; and I have black blood in my veins. “

Although Price made history as the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed her Symphony in E minor in 1933, her work might never have been well known though she had a collection of her manuscripts, books and personal papers were not discovered in an abandoned house in St. Anne, Ill., in 2009 and were donated to Special Collections Libraries of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Through the efforts of the Fort Smith Symphony, the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, Price’s music has been heard throughout Northwest Arkansas for the past several years.

Today, SoNA is releasing a performance of Price’s Piano Quintet in A minor, recorded live in the magnificent Great Hall of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. It is currently available for viewing on

“Florence Price’s astonishing work is quite exciting, but the fact that her music has been unfairly ignored for all these years adds to the urgency of releasing this piece and making it known to the ears of music lovers around the world,” said said Paul Haas, musical director of SoNA. “I am so proud, both of the incredible playing of our musicians and of the SoNA itself for helping to bring attention to this amazingly gifted composer.

“It’s hard to overstate how excited we are about this recording.”

The quintet consisted of SoNA musicians Tomoko Kashiwagi, acting principal pianist; Zsolt Eder, associate principal violin; Miho Oda Sakon, second principal violin; Jesse Collett, principal violist; and Kari Caldwell, solo cello.

“It’s such an honor to bring lost (or forgotten) music to life,” Kashiwagi says. “There are challenges, as there aren’t a lot of readily available resources. We spent a lot of time discussing and trying to figure out Price’s intentions from the score during rehearsals. ‘there will be many more performances of the Piano Quintet in the future. “

Kashiwagi came to the United States from Fujisawa, Japan, about 35 miles south of Tokyo, 29 years ago and has been teaching piano and collaborative piano at the University of Arkansas since 2012. She- even a multi-talented one, she sang and played the clarinet and viola while growing up. , but “I like the completeness of the piano; you can play a beautiful melody, colorful harmonies and even be the rhythm section,” she says. With SoNA since 2015, she rediscovered the collaboration that she often lacked.

“As a pianist, we are privileged to have so many great solo works to play, but it can also be lonely at times,” she says. “I have always enjoyed making music with others and pursued my PhD in collaborative piano. I am so grateful to be a member of SoNA. Words can’t really explain what it feels like to to be part of a big group, united to create musical moments together. It’s so powerful. “

Kashiwagi says she discovered Price’s music when the University of Arkansas music department hosted the Florence Price Symposium in 2015.

“We performed the Suite (Octet) for brass, which had never been played or had not been played for at least 60 years,” she recalls. “Since then, I have made many friends who are advocates and scholars of [Price’s] music.

“The Piano Quintet in A minor is full of beautiful melodies, excitement and charm,” enthuses Kashiwagi. “Listeners can sit back and enjoy Florence Price’s mastery of composition. I also hope this performance will make her music even more widely known to concert planners, performers and audiences.”

Tomoko Kashiwagi is the acting principal pianist of the Northwest Arkansas Symphony and one of the quintets that have recorded Florence Price’s Piano Quintet in A minor. (Courtesy photo / Tomoko Kashiwagi)

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Quintet in A minor by Florence Price

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