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Classical Music Review

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Vol 2 - Florence B. Price


Composer: Florence B. Price
Performed by: Catalyst Quartet and Michelle Cann (piano)
Label: Azica Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 04 February 2022

Catalyst Quartet releases the second volume in its Uncovered series, this time focusing on the works of Florence B. Price. This multi-volume anthology is designed to highlight string quartet works by historically important black composers. Volume 2 is devoted to the six known string quartet and piano quintet works of 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'...

Following on from last year's (2021) Uncovered: Vol 1, which focused on the work of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Azica Records release Catalyst Quartet's second volume in the series, this time bringing to life the work of Florence B. Price.

Maybe the most remarkable thing here is that audio recordings of several of the pieces on this album are seeing the light of day for the first time, having never previously been recorded. And as the works are uniformly impressive, it begs the question why they've never previously been recorded and released.

Talking about the album, Catalyst Quartet says: "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."

There's quite a diverse style of works on this collection, some of which sound dated, because they belong to a specific time period with all the cliches that entails, while others are timeless. For example works like 'Five Folk Songs' feel like soundtracks to silent movies, whilst pieces like 'Quintet in A Minor' sound like traditional classical music.

There's so much to discover and enjoy here that any lover of traditional classical music should immediately add this to their library.


Darren Rea

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