• Florence Price
  • Remembrance

  • G Schirmer Inc (World)

ed. John Michael Cooper

  • Piano
  • 3 min

Programme Note

Florence Price's Remembrance bears the subtitle "(To Mr. Henry S. Sawyer)." The reference is to Henry S. Sawyer (1864-1941), a prolific Chicago-based composer who published with McKinley, one of Price's own publishers (and the firm that printed the staff paper she used for most of her works). Sawyer is a problematic minor figure in twentieth-century U.S. music: on the one hand, his publication of a number of pieces for children ("unchanged voices"), children's operettas, songs, and short piano pieces reveals a didactic musical bent that would have resonated with Price's own. He also was involved in promoting women's organizations and women's roles in social organizations — these, too, interests consistent with Price's own work. On the other hand, some of Sawyer's publications reveal a racist attitude that must have been as offensive to Price as they are today.
Whatever the nature of his acquaintance with Price — a question for future Price biographers — Sawyer was apparently a figure of some personal importance to her, for she wrote out Remembrance twice — extra work for such a busy and prolific composer, and a practice that is relatively rare in Price's oeuvre. The work is undated. While its lyricism, its use of the clear-cut ternary form common in Price's short piano works (and in Sawyer's and others'), its insistent use of the added sixth scale degree in the context of major chords is characteristic of both African American folksong and folksong generally, its harmonic language reveals the technical sophistication of Price's musical imagination. The most obvious instances of this sophistication are perhaps the effectiveness of the chromatic ascents and descents that are exchanged among the inner voices and integrated into the melody in the B section. Equally noteworthy, however, is the surprising apparent naturalness of the move from G major to D-flat major in m. 8 and then from D-flat to D (serving as dominant to the tonic G) in mm. 10-11. The result, as in many of Price's other works, is a compositional synthesis of stylistic techniques from both vernacular and cultivated spheres, techniques that were usually segregated out from one another.
— John Michael Cooper