ed. John Michael Cooper

  • pf
  • 2 min 30 s

Programme Note

An Old Love Letter is a piece at once enigmatic and immediately approachable. On the one hand, it is the first of two pieces clearly written in succession but not bearing a collective title (the second piece is “Little Pale Hands and Brown Ones”). Neither piece is dated, but they are written on a paper-type that is uncommon in Price’s papers, printed by the Chicago firm of Rayner, Dalheim & Co. — a paper-type that also appears in Monologue for the Working Class and thus suggests a date of October 1941 (the date of that song). On the other hand, it bears all the melodic grace and harmonic richness that for which Florence Price is celebrated. The lyrical A section is nostalgic and tinged with melancholy and flavored by blue thirds (all appropriate, of course, for an encounter with “an old love letter”), and is itself structured as a frame, with strains in G major framing a central middle portion in E minor (mm. 24-31). E minor then turns out to be the key of the more agitated central Allegro, a section whose agitation is underscored by insistent descending chromatic lines. The result is a work that, despite the questions surrounding its composition, offers considerable emotional range.

— John Michael Cooper