Yannick rises as Florence Price champion

Yannick rises as Florence Price champion


norman lebrecht

May 05, 2021

Philadelphia’s new-season announcement blazons a focus on the long-neglected American composer Florence Price, whose complete symphonies will be recorded for DG, with Yannick conducting.

Joshua Bell will perform a world premiere arrangement of Florence Price’s Adoration.

Yannick will premiere Marsalis’s Tuba Concerto with principal tuba Carol Jantsch.

And there’s a Vigil in Memory of Breonna Taylor, involving collaborativewWork by Igee Dieudonné and Singer-Activist Davóne Tines to be Conducted by Nézet-Séguin with “Shake the Heavens” by John Adams and “You Want the Truth, but You Don’t Want to Know” from Anthony Davis’s X: The Life and Times of Malcom X

I think we see a theme emerging here, but no-one dares to speak its name.


  • Jean says:

    Interesting addition to DG catalogue

    • Yes. DG will have all the symphonies of Price and Schmidt and Ives before any by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

      • norman lebrecht says:


      • HugoPreuss says:

        When I go to my favorite CD online dealer I get 341 hits for Vaughan Williams CDs and 7 hits for Florence Price. Do you really think he was 48 times better and more important? There are plenty of Vaughan Williams recordings out there, and I own plenty of them. Including the symphonies. I am happy to hear that DGG will make some less often heard music available.

      • sabrinensis says:

        Ralph has enough representation in reasonable, great, and not-so-great readings. You don’t have to be enthusiastic about Price to be glad to see the hidebound DG venture outside its comfort zone, however opportunistic it may look the label (conductor and orchestra too) by its timing.

        • Sally says:

          There is something more than “hidebound” to a German record company that will not recognize Britain’s symphonist.

          • The View from America says:

            Don’t hold your breath waiting for DGG to record any of the symphonies of Alwyn, Walton, Bax, Stanford or Cyril Scott, either.

            Elgar might be a different story, seeing as how he sounds so Teutonic …

          • Sally says:

            But Elgar is not a different story: DG won’t record his symphonies either.

      • Dan P. says:

        While there may be someone who can provide a reason for re-recording Vaughan Williams symphonies or other repertoire items, but is one more go-round of the standard repertoire really a priority? It would be nice to have something less familiar for a change. I can’t shake the feeling that if these composers were Russian, French, or even Czech there would be less snarkiness and eye rolling.

      • Bryan Simpson says:

        What DG has is now the same as what Universal Music Group has, no one has more Williams than Universal.

  • caranome says:

    Everyone must bow down to the God of Blackness, sing their praises and atone for all your sins of whiteness.

  • SMims says:

    Do these new DGG recordings of Price’s Symphonies include the Symphony No, 2 which is supposedly lost (though researchers know where it might be located)

  • Barry says:

    They’ve lost me. I don’t have a problem with them playing music by living and minority composers. But I do have a problem with them playing a piece dedicated to Breonna Taylor, whose death was tragic, but not the result of police misconduct. Perhaps commissioning a piece in honor of police officers slain in the line of duty would get me back. But we all know that isn’t happening.
    And it’s not just that. There were the woke discussion on race that had nothing to do with music throughout the pandemic, and more.
    I simply will not bow down and attend concerts, or watch sporting events, on the terms of the woke. I’ll eat my meat when I want it and don’t care if I get my pudding.
    It’s been a nice 35 years or so, but I will be content with recordings now; both of old and new music. The truth is, I haven’t felt they’ve been at the elite level they used to occupy since Sawallisch stepped down.

    • Barry says:

      And while I’ve defended YNS from what I think are often gratuitous attacks against him on here, I have to say that he and the fairly new orchestra president have been front and center in pushing what I think is an excessive focus on non-music related issues for an orchestra, particularly when the issues are divisive. They seem to be directing it. We’ll see if it works as a business strategy. They can’t really afford to alienate many people.

      • V.Lind says:

        Perhaps, but is there any reason at all that Florence Price’s music should not be recorded, and by a first-rate orchestra and conductor on a major label?

        There is already a lot of RVW out there already — I have a number of recordings — but had never heard of Florence Price until a few years ago and it might be a good thing to listen to some of her music before offering further opinion. She has had sufficient defence on this site to make me think her work should be more available.

        • Barry says:

          If that’s addressed to me, I think it’s great that they’re recording her music. My problem with the season announcement had nothing to do with that. She seems like someone whose music deserves to be heard.
          We have a current problem where every time a police officer kills an African-American, a mob riots in spite of the fact that in the vast majority of those cases, the officers either acted reasonably under the circumstances or made an honest mistake in the heat of a very difficult moment. I object to the Orchestra feeding into a false narrative on police shootings that is making life miserable for police officers and causing the murder rates to sky-rocket in many cities, including Philly, because police officers are retiring in record numbers and many of those who are left are afraid to do their jobs for fear of what will happen if the outcome doesn’t go the mob’s way.
          And that one program isn’t the only thing the Orchestra (YNS and the president) have done to feed into that in the past year.

    • Barry says:

      I see there is a mostly negative reaction to my comments on dropping my subscription. I don’t really blame people for feeling that way without more context than what I put in the post.
      It does seem a bit knee-jerk to drop a long-time subscription over programming one piece. …. But the context, which is pretty obvious at this point, is that this sort of thinking is now intruding into virtually every aspect of American culture. The programming was a final straw on top of the other stuff I mentioned and numerous other things that don’t involve the Orchestra. I’m simply not willing to smile and go along with the insanity.

    • BRUCEB says:

      “…but not the result of police misconduct.”


    • MacroV says:

      Armed agents of the state bursting into someone’s private residence and ending her life – and the callous indifference of the law enforcement system that allowed it to happen – actually seems like an excellent theme on which to build a show.

      And very relevant to Philly, which has its own experience with such things (remember Frank Rizzo?).

      Museums are constantly curating shows that try to show a thematic connection between works and its relation to modern times. Why not orchestras?

      • Barry says:

        This is a perfect example of how ill-informed people are on this issue. You could be the mob.

        The officers had a legal warrant that they executed legally, including announcing themselves. As soon as they entered the home, Taylor’s boyfriend shot at them. I don’t know what things are like where you’re from. But where I’m from, when a cop is fired upon while carrying out his or her duties, they fire back with full force. That’s what they’re trained to do because it’s felt that’s the best way to keep the officers alive.

        Tragically, Taylor happened to be in the room near her boyfriend when police fired back at him.

        Of the now maybe couple dozen high profile police shootings of African-Americans going back to Furguson, MO, I doubt more than two or three have been crimes committed by the police rather than officers either acting properly under difficult circumstances or making a tragic mistake in judgement.

        • MacroV says:

          The problem with the Taylor case is precisely that what was done WAS legal, with great ineptitute and permitted by a system that showed a callous disregard for human life, and the tyranny of Big Government. Creating a show that highlights this and provokes discussion seems a very appropriate activity for a performing arts group.

      • Barry says:


        Inform yourself. And click right on through the offensive content label. It’s nothing but a recitation of facts. Some people find that offensive now days.

      • The View from America says:

        Frank Rizzo was elected mayor of Philly a half-century ago and left office more than 40 years ago. Most people won’t know what you’re talking about.

        • Barry says:

          I often think that the driving problem today is the tendency to compare things to an essentially utopian ideal rather than what has come before and probably what is possible in a large scale human society.

    • John Kelly says:

      “not the result of police misconduct” – well it’s hardly the kind of policing anyone anywhere would WANT. And the Philadelphia Orchestra sounds wonderful under YNS, no, not as good as in the 80s with Muti but at that point it was absolutely the best orchestra in the US……….

      • Barry says:

        For a long time, we’ve had a cycle in U.S. cities. When violent crime rates sore, eventually, community leaders call on law-makers to take tough action and for the police to do more.

        Eventually, after enough years of that, the people who asked for help in the first place forget about that and start to complain about the police while calling out for reforms that tie their hands. That’s where we’re out now.

        After over 20 years of falling murder rates, they are back to where they were when things were at their worst, during the 70s and 80s. After enough years of the murder rate being through the roof, the cycle will probably shift back again and people in those communities will go back to asking why the police aren’t doing enough.

        Well they aren’t doing enough because they are afraid of what will happen if everything doesn’t go perfectly. It’s a natural human reaction after what we’ve witnessed for the past year.

    • Marfisa says:

      Some information.

      Breonna Taylor was the only unarmed black woman to have been shot and killed by police in 2020. Similarly only one unarmed white woman shot and killed by police in 2020, Hannah R. Fizer. The figures for black males and white males are 17 and 23 respectively. These figures are from the Washington Post’s database of police killings since 1/1/2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/

      Once a single event comes under the media spotlight, as in the case of Breonna Taylor, it can assume a purely symbolic significance, disproportionate to the historic reality.

      There seems to have been almost no national media coverage of the death of Hannah Fizer.

      48 police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty in 2020. http://nleomf.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/2020-LE-Officers-Fatalities-Report-opt.pdf

      ‘Vigil’, dedicated to the memory of Breonna Taylor, is one part of a three-part work entitled ‘Sermon’, which is more broadly concerned with the African-American experience.

      ‘Woke’ is an emotive and unhelpful term, as commonly used.

      • Barry says:

        Thank you for that. The video I linked to above is essentially a half-hour recitation of the sort of facts you provide (the woman presenting the facts occasionally moonlights as an opera critic in NYC).

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    But can a white non-American male conductor do justice to FloP.’s works?

  • mary says:

    Th theme emerging here is that by all logic, the Chicago Symphony ought to be recording Price’s works for DG ,with her deep ties to Chicago (the city and the orchestra), and why Nezet-Seguin got the DG deal and not Muti is probably because Muti was too busy in Italy planning for his birthday party in Salzburg.

    • anon says:

      It doesn’t matter who records Price, it’s not going to sell.

      If you think Black Americans are all of a sudden going to rush out and shop Deutsche Grammophone, ha ha….

      If you think White Americans are all of a sudden going to rush out and buy Price, you haven’t been reading the posts on this page.

      If you think Japanese and European classical music fans care one whit about neglected female Black American classical composers , you’ve been in lockdown too long.

  • japecake says:

    I understand the optics of the moment in regard to some of this work. I don’t deny that the Florence Price story is a compelling one, or that her music deserves a hearing. But I’ve listened to most of her work that’s available on recordings, and the supercharged hype around her invariably promises more than the music delivers. It’s competent but often derivative and otherwise unremarkable—just like the music of so many of her white contemporaries whose music is now virtually forgotten. There’s a reason we hear a lot of Copland and Ives (and for that matter Duke Ellington) and very little of John Alden Carpenter or Daniel Gregory Mason. Sometimes it takes time, even decades, but all great art eventually rises to the surface. Of course there’s room for all kinds of music, of a range of quality, from composers of various backgrounds. Less familiar music, even if not the greatest, helps create a richer, more complex picture of the milieu in which it was created. I enjoy plenty of second- and third-tier composers. But there’s a reason that Brahms has endured while Raff has not, and it doesn’t involve an elaborate conspiracy. We also need an honest, dispassionate evaluation of the music itself, understanding the distinctions between music whose interest is mainly historical and music whose quality and originality and influence lift it into a completely different realm. Music should, finally, sink or swim on its own intrinsic qualities—regardless of the composer’s identity. I believe any self-respecting composer would feel the same of his/her own work.

    • Mark says:

      I agree. Endless concerts of mediocre music to satisfy some political point will result in fewer people attending concerts with inevitable consequences.

    • Graeme Hall says:

      Exactly this! I’ve heard quite a bit of Florence Price’s music on Radio 3 in the last year or so, and it’s perfectly pleasant and well-crafted, but nothing more than that.

    • Graeme Hall says:

      Exactly this. I’ve heard plenty of Florence Price’s music on Radio 3, in the last year, and it’s perfectly pleasant and well-crafted but nothing more.

      • Gary Freer says:

        absolutely. Wouldn’t mind hearing a bit more Amy Beach if they want to tick at least some of the boxes.

    • minacciosa says:

      I agree about the relative quality of Price’s music. She is best as a miniaturist and creator of art songs, which is no small feat. Her piano pieces are wonderful and show a sharp characterization; the larger works are faulty and despite good passages and some genuine inspiration here and there, they do not sustain interest throughout their duration sufficiently to distract from their technical faults.

      John Alden Carpenter (who was a supporter of Price) is a different story. He was a composer of particular individuality and his major works have not been heard in modern performances frequently enough to dismiss him.

      DG should consider recording Leo Sowerby’s symphonies. The 5th is quite unique but has never been performed

      • japecake says:

        I find Carpenter’s music enjoyable and very well written—but not pathbreaking in the way that vaulted some of his better-known contemporaries (Copland, Ives, Gershwin) in the front ranks of American music history. As I suggested, it’s great to hear unfamiliar works, including Price’s. But, for reasons that in my estimation are unrelated to the music itself, she’s being painted as something of genius—a high and unrealistic bar to meet.

      • Kevin Scott says:

        Not only Sowerby, but many other American composers as well. I’m still waiting for a comprehensive recording of Howard Swanson’s three symphonies and the nine of Elie Siegmeister, as well as a third, and long overdue, recording of Bernard Herrmann’s sole symphony.

        Yet Price is a composer who did pave the way for other African-American women to become composers, even if they didn’t hear a note of her music. The very idea that she was the first to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra at the time of the Great Depression and Jim Crow was considered a feat in many ways. But one symphony of hers that has never been discussed is the one she composed prior to the E minor Symphony, namely the one she composed while attending the New England Conservatory for Music in Boston, unless the E minor IS the symphony she wrote during this time period.

        The main question is: Will her star continue to shine or will it fade once all is said and done? That is up to both the performer and the listener, as well as our present state of history, to decide. Until then…enjoy the music. The fourth symphony is the best of the three extant numbered ones, while the third is more taut in its symphonic argument over the first.

  • met fan says:

    so happy to see how YNS has been spending his time during all of this. Congrats on your solo piano record too, shame you probably won’t have an orchestra in the pit if they ever return. Just glad he’s ok though. YOU ARE A COWARD.

  • Been There done That says:

    Is DGG’s A&R budget is covering these projects? Are they planning to go flat-broke?

    • Saxon says:

      It might only need a few thousand sales to break even. And that might be achievable over several years. Costs are amazingly small for producing a CD if the orchestra and conductor don’t demand any money, and a concert performance is recorded.

  • BigSir says:

    Quite frankly, I watched the Phil Orch and supported them during covid. But organizations that exclusively promote music by POC are off my radar now.

    • Paul A Wells says:

      The first few concerts of the season include Mozart, Beethoven, Gershwin, Mahler, Bach, Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Schubert. Were you speaking hypothetically?

  • Greg says:

    Nothing in the Arts is sillier than special pleading or race-norming. We can’t erase past injustice by over-praising the second-rate. Having said that, I love Price’s music. More, please. Maybe give Mahler and Brahms a bit of a rest and explore the gorgeous world of music that Dvorak prophesied would emerge in America.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    The Chicago Sinfonietta has already recorded works by Price and they are wonderful recordings.

    DG should have hired them to complete the set.

    • sabrinensis says:

      Presently, the Sinfonietta isn’t quite up to the high standard set by them in their earlier years under their founder.

  • Joel Lazar says:

    The semi-professional orchestra [rather diverse] I [white male] conduct in the Washington DC area had great pleasure–as did its audience [not as diverse as we’d like]–in our performance of the Price Third two seasons back. A performance of the Piano Concerto, originally scheduled for next month, will be forthcoming. It’s good stuff and goes well on programs with music of her teacher and mentor, Chadwick, for instance, without apology.

  • Charles says:

    It’s amazing to me the amount of racist comments here. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a great orchestra recording some neglected works. Honestly, it’s refreshing. How many more recordings do we need of the Beethoven and Brahms symphonies, etc??
    I applaud DG! If you don’t want to purchase the recording then that’s your choice! Although, It doesn’t mean everyone feels that way.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      You should not be amazed at the amount of racism, on this site or in the world. They are a nasty lot.

  • steveb says:

    Ah, “Singer-Activist:” my favorite kind of activist. Much better than the trombone-playing kind, or marching bands of them.

  • MacroV says:

    Yes, it’s called making an orchestra relevant in 21st century America.

  • Peter Owen says:

    Sooner or later some brave soul will point out that Ms Price’s music isn’t very good.

  • yujafan says:

    Price, Ives, Schmidt and RVW shall all have space on my shelves and will all be greatly enjoyed for their merits. Good on DG – and, yes, there are enough versions of RVW out there. As with Beethoven, Mozart, etc. do we really need more new recordings from artists that rarely, if ever, have anything remarkable to say with them?

  • Dave T says:

    I’d feel a lot better about the music of F Price if it weren’t for all the cultural appropriation.

  • Jack says:

    Such a shame that the Philadelphia Orchestra’s fall 2021 season prioritizes virtue signaling more than music.

  • AnnaT says:

    Malcolm’s aria from X is fantastic! And very exciting to see more Price recordings in the pipeline.

  • Robin Mitchell-Boyask says:

    Folks, so much is wrong here, starting with the fact that the PO only announced a few concerts for the fall and was clear that the real, normal season starts in January. And then we can enjoy, with their regular nonstop Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, YNS’s silly blonde hair, weird shirts, giggling when he drops the baton, allowing Grimaud to drown out the winds in Bartok, etc.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    All I can say is that I wonder if her estate is held by one of her family members as if they have copyright, they should be making a good deal of money on rentals.

    Everyone wants to play Price.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    “I think we see a theme emerging here, but no-one dares to speak its name.”
    I’ll speak it’s name: bold, interesting, and unusual programming.
    Bravos all around!