• Florence Price
  • Snapshots

  • G Schirmer Inc (World)

ed. John Michael Cooper

  • Piano
  • 9 min

Programme Note

I. Lake Mirror (October 13, 1952)
II. Moon behind a Cloud
III. Flame

Composed between 1947 and 1952, Snapshots is one of Price's most expansive piano works, and her most persistently modernist. The first movement, "Lake Mirror" — apparently the last-conceived of the set — is the one most obviously indebted to the post-Romantic notions of beauty and form familiar from much of Price's other output, but its overall approach is decidedly impressionistic, and some passages are post-tonal. The same aesthetic of impressionistic beauty governs "Moon behind a Cloud," whose alternation of clearly triadic, tonal materials with whole-tone and other post-tonal ones recalls that of Clouds. And while that stereotypically impressionist notion of capturing an image or moment in tones is also present in the concluding movement, "Flame," that movement dispenses entirely with the first two movements' tranquil and occasionally mysterious beauty. Instead, "Flame" is relentlessly dissonant, fueled by a conspicuously virtuosic urgency. The three movements' overall stylistic and emotional progression reveals one of the other most strikingly modernist features of Snapshots. For while the familiar Romantic and post-Romantic paradigm would begin with the air of dissonance, crisis, and strife and progress from there to some sort of stylistic reconciliation or resolution, Snapshots does the opposite. It begins with an aura of calm and moves from there to a burning and pervasively tumultuous conclusion — indeed, even the final chords, though nominally in the parallel major of the movement's starting key, contain a dissonant ninth. The result is that Snapshots not only celebrates Price's own compositional modernism, but also subverts virtually every expectation of conventional post-Romantic style. And this — in a racist and sexist world that resolutely turned a blind eye to, or forcefully resisted, any attempt from women and people of color to challenge the norms of the White-dominated musical patriarchy — was a gesture as bold as it was brilliant.

— John Michael Cooper