ed. John Michael Cooper

  • Violin, piano
  • 4 min

Programme Note

One of the major issues yet to be addressed in Price scholarship is the matter of the apparently sudden creative outburst that she experienced sometime around the middle of 1929: although she had penned compositions before then and had studied composition, harmony, and orchestration at Chicago Musical College in the summers of 1926 and 1927, only after mid-1929 did her compositional output and the individuality of her compositional style increase dramatically. More than anything that had preceded them, the compositions that began to flow freely from her musical imagination at that point manifested her relentless impulse to compose her experiences — with imagination, skill, and a flair for synthesis of cultivated and vernacular styles that typically occupied separate realms. That abundant outpouring of compositional creativity would become a defining characteristic a composer who, despite the prejudicial limitations her world would have imposed on her, would go on to become a pioneering figure in midtwentieth-century musical style.
The Andante con espressione is part of that early outpouring of Price's mature creative genius. The subtle contrasts and counterbalances between its two main sections, and Price's deft handling of the conclusion, reveal the composer's gift for creating forms that were richly varied yet cohesive. Certainly the lyrical, gently arching, diatonic melodies of the G-major A section (mm. 1-18) contrast strongly with the more agitated chromaticism of the B section (mm. 19-40); and the gapped melodies and persistent added sixth scale degree (E) in the former, particularly with the interpolated cadential tag in m. 9, evoke an African American influence that is less obvious in the B section. Yet in m. 22 the right hand of the piano clearly recollects the accompanimental melody repeatedly stated in mm. 1-17 of the A section, and the gapped cadential line E – D – B – A – G first stated in the right hand of the accompaniment in m. 23 and then taken up by the violin in mm. 24-25 is of obviously Black origin — so that the two main sections, stylistic contrasts notwithstanding, are not so far apart after all. This synthesis becomes more obvious in the coda (mm. 41-63). Here the main theme of the A section predominates, but the rich chromatic moves from G major through B-flat major, B-flat minor, D-flat major, and A-flat major before returning to G major are born of the chromatically inflected harmonic language the B section, not the diatonic language of the A section. And despite a brief return to chromatic harmony two bars from the end, the harmonic tension evaporates in the coda. The result is a work that is a rich and stylistically varied exploration of the solo violin's beauty as an instrument of cantabile melody.
— John Michael Cooper