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Price • Sowerby – Music for String Quartet

Since the discovery of a large collection of lost manuscripts in 2009, Florence Beatrice Price’s work has undergone a renaissance with recordings of her orchestral and other works released on major labels. This recording is part of that encouraging rediscovery of this neglected composer, the first African American female to have a symphonic work performed by a major American orchestra, in Chicago in 1933. Leo Sowerby’s unpublished String Quartet in G minor required a good deal of work to make it performable for this world premiere recording, with only a pencil manuscript surviving, devoid of indications for dynamics and articulation.

Florence Price and Leo Sowerby were both prominent members of the Chicago music community in the 1930s and 1940s, and they are known to have respected each other’s work. Most of Florence Price’s compositions remained unpublished at her death, and her String Quartet in A minor was not performed in her lifetime. Its African American vernacular idioms and colorful harmonic language are characteristics shared in the famous melodies woven into the later Five Folksongs in Counterpoint. From its brooding opening through propulsive rhythms, expressive lyrical melodies and fugal finale, this premiere recording of Sowerby’s String Quartet in G minor reveals a work undeserving of its decades of obscurity.

Listen to an extract from Sowerby’s String Quartet in G minor:
I. Languidly; darkly – Fast; with dash
About the Artists

The Avalon String Quartet has established itself as one of America’s leading chamber music ensembles, appearing at major venues such as Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the 92nd Street Y (92NY) in New York; the Library of Congress and National Gallery of Art in Washington DC; Wigmore Hall in London; and Herkulessaal in Munich. The quartet's live performances and conversations have been heard on National Public Radio’s Performance Today, Canada’s CBC, Australia’s ABC, ARD in Germany, and France Musique. It is the resident quartet at the Northern Illinois University School of Music.

From left to right: Anthony Devroye, Cheng-Hou Lee, Marie Wang and Blaise Magnière

More chamber music albums from the American Classics series
‘The still young, but very well established Pacifica Quartet gives convincing and passionate performances of these extremely difficult pieces which are among the most daunting but rewarding chamber works of our time.’
The WholeNote
‘[The] Avalon Quartet is ubiquitously stunning; their performance of these works blazes a strong path for future interpretations of Quayle’s work … [T]his will delight listeners again and again.’
American Record Guide
‘The playing is superlative throughout and the recordings are of audiophile quality.’
‘Well-crafted works by an all-but-forgotten American composer. The performances … are vital and communicative, recorded with presence and clarity. Another winner from this enterprising series.’
For the complete American Classics catalogue, follow this link.

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