Classical Album: UNCOVERED VOLUME 2: FLORENCE B. PRICE (Catalyst Quartet)

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by Connor McCormick on January 20, 2022

in CD-DVD,Music

On Friday, February 4, 2022, GRAMMY Award-winning Catalyst Quartet releases UNCOVERED Volume 2: Florence B. Price on Azica Records. The digital album is the second issue of a multi-volume anthology highlighting string quartet works by historically important Black composers which aims to bring greater awareness and programming of their music. Volume 2 is entirely devoted to the six known string quartet and piano quintet works of composer Florence B. Price – including four world premiere recordings – performed with pianist Michelle Cann, recipient of the 2021 Price Award.

The album consists of four string quartets, three of which have never been recorded, and two piano quintets, one of which has never been recorded, including Price’s Quintet in A minor for Piano and Strings; Negro Folksongs in Counterpoint for String Quartet; String Quartet in A minor; Five Folksongs in Counterpoint for String Quartet; and her unfinished String Quartet in G Major and Quintet for Piano and Strings.

In the words of the Catalyst Quartet, “Price faced extreme obstacles in her lifetime, however her compositional output is vast despite the many barriers placed in her path. The six works in UNCOVERED Vol. 2 highlight her most productive years and unique cultural identity. Her experience as a Black woman displaced because of the deep racism of the Jim Crow south; a wife and mother fleeing from an abusive husband; a prodigious organ student at the New England Conservatory; and as an important contributor to the great Chicago Renaissance between 1935 and 1950, where she associated with icons such as Langston Hughes, Marion Anderson, and Margaret Bonds; shaping her body of work while contributing authentically to American music in its depth and beauty. The works on this album are a powerful reminder that America’s romantic classical vernacular, as prophesied by Dvorak, owes an incredible amount to the voices history has overlooked and suppressed.”

UNCOVERED Vol. 1 featured the music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor with guest collaborators, pianist Stewart Goodyear and clarinetist Anthony McGill, and was released to critical acclaim in February 2021. Volume 3 and beyond will feature Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, William Grant Still, and George Walker among others. The San Francisco Chronicle described the Catalyst Quartet’s live performance of the works from Vol. 1 as, “an evening of smart, arresting music by Black composers, executed with skill and panache. It’s really not as scary or disruptive an innovation as the resisters make it out to be. As part of its Uncovered project — an ambitious performance and recording initiative devoted to the work of six overlooked Black composers from the U.S., France and the U.K. – the ensemble performed a range of music that rarely, if ever, shows up on chamber programs… In addition to the immediate musical delights afforded by the recital, there was a larger political point clearly being made: The notion that the invisible hand of the classical tradition has successfully identified all the chamber music worth hearing – namely, the work of the usual big-name ‘greats’ – and that none of the rest of it measures up, isn’t simply wrong, it’s laughable. You and I could go to chamber concerts for years and never hear a program as full of surprises and discovery as this one. And we’ve been missing out.”

1 Quintet in A minor for Piano and Strings / Allegro non troppo
2 Andante con moto
3 Juba
4 Scherzo
5 Negro Folksongs in Counterpoint for String Quartet / Go down Moses
6 Somebody’s knockin’ at yo do’
7 Little David play on yo harp
8 Joshua fit de battle ob Jericho
9 String Quartet in A minor / Moderato
10 Andante cantabile
11 Juba
12 Finale
13 Five Folksongs in Counterpoint for String Quartet / Calvary
14 Oh my darlin’ Clementine
15 Drink to me only with thine eyes
16 Shortnin’ bread
17 Swing low, sweet chariot
18 String Quartet in G Major (unfinished) / Allegro
19 Andante moderato
20 Quintet for Piano and Strings (possibly unfinished) / Allegro moderato
21 Andante
22 Allegretto

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