The New York-based Catalyst Quartet has recently released the second installment in their UNCOVERED series, which presents recordings of works by African-American composers who have long been neglected by the canon.
The new album concentrates on the chamber music of Florence B. Price (1887-1953), a prolific composer and arguably the first female African-American composer to gain national attention. Price's musical style was influenced by Dvořák and Coleridge-Taylor, and also incorporated elements of Black spirituals.
Price overcame considerable obstacles in order to compose: beyond the usual difficulties of being a Black woman in the Jim Crow South, she gained a place at the New England Conservatory — which at the time was one of few institutions accepting Black students.
Later on, she became the first African-American woman to have a symphony performed by a major U.S. orchestra.
The album's tracklist includes four string quartets, three of which are world premiere recordings, and two piano quintets, one of which has never been recorded. For the latter pair of works, the quartet is joined by pianist Michelle Cann, who was the 2021 recipient of the Florence Price Award. Several of the works on the recording have not yet been published and so the group worked from copies of Price's original manuscripts.
You can purchase and learn more about the album, here.
The quartet intends to record several more albums in this series, which will cover works by Joseph Boulogne Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, William Grant Still, and George Walker. These recordings will join the project's first volume, which focused on the music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
"We want people to have access to all of Price's string quartet works in one place," Catalyst Quartet violinist Karla Donehew Pérez told The Violin Channel. "The pieces are truly incredible and not only need to be recorded but published as well. We had to access hand written scores through the library in order to perform and record these works. Our hope is that this will inspire others to program, perform and record these works, so that they get the time and tradition they have lost."
In March 2021 the group performed three works by Price as part of a concert for WQXR at The Greene Space. You can view that performance below: