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Part of: Visionary Sounds
Hear GRAMMY® Award winning pianist Michelle Cann, joined on violin by Orchestra of St. Luke’s Jesse Mills, in a program of history-making composers Florence Price and Margaret Bonds.
The first African American woman to have her works performed by major orchestras, Florence Price, born in 1887, broke barriers at a time when classical music was dominated by white men. Trained at the New England Conservatory in Boston before moving to the midwest, she found success during the Chicago Black Renaissance, writing music that blended spirituals and folk tunes with classical forms. Though her work faded into relative obscurity after her death in 1953, the discovery of a significant cache of her compositions in 2009 brought about a revival of her work. This rekindling of interest has been driven by musicians like Cann, who, in 2016, performed the New York City premiere of Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement, reigniting her legacy and underscoring her enduring impact on classical music.
A contemporary, student, and friend of Florence Price, Margaret Bonds emerged as another pioneering composer of the mid-20th century. Bonds grew up in Chicago, where she studied piano and composition with Price before pursuing degrees at Northwestern University. In 1933, the very year Price’s inaugural symphony was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Bonds achieved her own groundbreaking feat as the first Black woman to perform as a soloist with the same orchestra. While continuing her studies at The Juilliard School, Bonds’s encounter with Langston Hughes sparked a creative friendship that resulted in her setting many of his poems to music. As a staunch advocate for fellow Black composers, she founded The Margaret Bonds Chamber Music Society in Harlem to establish a canon of music by Black creators. Bonds, whose legacy continued until her passing in 1972, bequeathed a rich legacy of piano, vocal, and choral compositions that continue to resonate.
Underwriting for OSL’s 2023-2024 Visionary Sounds has generously been provided by Alden Toevs
Fantasie nègre No. 4
Fantasie nègre No. 2
Fantasie nègre No. 1
Sonata in E minor, Mvt. II
Fantasie No. 2