ed. John Michael Cooper

  • Violin, piano
  • 5 min

Programme Note

The Fantasie No. 1 in G Minor for violin and piano is the first of Price's two works in that genre. The autograph is dated July 15-16, 1933. This date places it in the chronological vicinity of some of Price's works that are best known today: the First (E-minor) Fantasie nègre (1929-32)5 and Piano Sonata in E Minor (1932), the First Symphony (1932), the Piano Concerto in D Minor (1932-34). Like all those already well-known compositions, the Violin Fantasy No. 1 reflects Price's remarkable fluency in synthesizing the traditions and idioms of post-Romantic concert music with the melodic and harmonic idioms of African American folksong.

The Fantasy begins with a cadenza-like improvisatory passage that covers the entire range of the violin part, from g to g3. The contrapuntally conceived main theme (mm. 13ff.) bears little compelling evidence of African American influence aside from its use of the natural seventh scale degree, but the gapped scales and chord-picking accompaniment of the new, transitional material that abruptly intrudes in B major, lento, at m. 38 clearly evokes those styles, and that character does not abate with the return of the defining motive of the main theme — still lento — in mm. 56-59. The African American influences become clearer still with the exquisitely beautiful B-flat major theme introduced in m. 61 — structurally and stylistically, the heart of the work. The dialog-like character of the transition back to G minor (mm. 89-93) may evoke call-and-response textures of traditional Black repertoires, but those influences again disappear — temporarily — with the return to the main theme. The coda may be understood as the moment of reconciliation of the two stylistic worlds inhabited by the earlier material: on the one hand, it clearly derives from the main theme; but at the same time the rhythmic language and gapped scales of the violin part in mm. 101ff. and the character of mm. 118-21 fully integrate African American gestures into the stylistic vocabulary of the work as a whole. Most remarkable of all, despite the Fantasy's cultivation of abrupt shifts and interruptions that give it a decidedly unstudied character, it is in fact a highly structured and symmetrical composition in which the introduction and coda frame a thematic and tonal dialog between G minor and B-flat major and the idioms of the cultivated and vernacular traditions.

— John Michael Cooper