Recently, Cann visited Chicago’s Auditorium Hall, armed with 88-year-old newspaper reviews of the concert: she knew where Price would have been sitting and what she was wearing.
“She got a standing ovation, and she was called up on stage and she was wearing a nice white dress,” Cann said. “I wish I could be a fly on the wall and see her react to that first. Even though she designed this and wrote it all, it came to life for her for the first time.”
Price is generally not taught in conservatories and rarely performed. Cann has been a champion of Price’s music since she first discovered it just five years ago, now performing her concertos with ensembles on a regular basis, including last season with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Florence Price grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and received formal training as an organist and composer at the New England Conservatory in Boston. She spent much of her adult life in Chicago, where she died at the age of 66.
“She draws from so many different parts of her life. There is a link with the Romantic period, and certainly with Dvořák. Her instructors and the people she admired, that was the music they heard, ”Cann said. “Even though she follows a certain format, she still does something that no one has ever done.”
Antonín Dvořák himself told the New York Herald earlier in 1893 that the future of American music “must be based on what are called Negro melodies. … These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the land. They are American. “
The First Symphony is clearly rooted in the music of the Romantic era with which Dvořák is associated, but adds melodic references to folk and spiritual music from the southern United States.
“I feel that connection to her training, but on the other hand, she takes inspiration from the music of black America,” Cann said. “She gave you a taste of the connections to black culture and black music from that time.