Florence Price Prelude No. 3

Updated: Mar 3

Florence Price is an incredible composer. She lived from 1887-1953 and she wrote BEAUTIFUL piano music. Last year, I was lucky enough to purchase dozens of scores of her music and play through it all. I instantly fell in love with a lot of it -- including the Prelude in the video below and particularly “On a Quiet Lake,” which I should record at some point.

She wrote over 300 works, many for piano, and luckily in 2009 many of her unpublished manuscripts were found in her abandoned summer home. She grew up in a family that supported her musical education and she attended the New England Conservatory. She was from Arkansas, and eventually ended up in Chicago where she taught, composed, and was hugely active in the music community until her death.

She missed out on many opportunities, including denial of entry to the Arkansas Music Teacher’s Association because of her race. She was the first African American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a symphony played by a major orchestra. She never gained the recognition she deserved, and her works were close to being forgotten. Thankfully, in recent years with initiatives like Lara Downes project, Rising Sun Music, which aims to bring focus to composers that had a huge influence over American music, Price has started to get a fraction of the attention and recognition that she deserves.

She writes in a beautifully American and Southern idiom. She frequently used motives from African American church music, and she also incorporated some snippets and influence from African American Spirituals. She was educated in a ‘traditional’ European style of classical music but her music goes far beyond that influence. If you are a fan of MacDowell or Dvorak, you should really check out Price, who should be credited for the sound and style of music that they both imitated when they composed.

I highly recommend listening to the Piano Concerto in E minor as well - it is stunning and breathtaking in it’s virtuosity and singable melody. The linked recording is of Lara Downes performing the concerto.

I have a personal initiative to learn as much as I can about historically excluded composers. I do a lot of this through my work with A Seat at the Piano. It’s a database website that makes it incredibly easy to discover ’new to you’ composers and their works. Check it out if you’re interested in doing the same.

This Prelude is No. 3 from a set of 5 Preludes. I fell in love wit it while playing through her music because of the energy, lighthearted melody, and rhythmic drive. To me, it feels almost like a tarantella. It’s dance like, dramatic, and exciting. I actually wish it were longer -- which is the feeling that I have when I play through many of Price’s works. She manages to capture a huge amount of musicality in short periods of time. Many of her standalone, solo piano works, are under a few minutes long. This makes them highly accessible, and it leaves me wanting more every time.

Prelude No. 3 is in the key of G major and written in 12/8 time. Each measure has 4 beats, but when I worked on the piece I actually found it helpful to count in 4 measure chunks. This means that I would count beat 1 of measure one as 1, beat 1 of measure 2 as 2, beat 1 of measure 3, etc. I grouped the whole piece (mostly) into 4 measure sections and this helped me achieve the speed required, and also helped me with phrasing. This is something that I do frequently when learning a very quick piece. It makes it easier to FEEL the rhythm.

You can see here by looking at my music that I struggled with this section in measures 16-19. I had to really drill the fingering and chord changes here because for some reason my head and hands did not want to cooperate. You can also see that I wrote a lot in my music here -- especially the fingering for every single note. That’s because this section was tricky enough that I needed the reminder of the fingering. I used a lot of flash practice and rhythms which you can learn about here. To see more about how I practice, you can watch this video and to see more about practice journals, which I ABSOLUTELY used when practicing this piece, watch this video.

For more info about the Preludes and to buy a copy of the music visit this website. (This is not an affiliate link--this is where I bought my copy from and I can’t find it anywhere else)!

Until next time!


***As part of my goal to educate and motivate as many people as possible, I’m now accepting donations via Patreon. This will give me more time to focus on making videos and producing more high quality content. Buy me a coffee here.

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