Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Beyond the Baton

Posted by:  The Philadelphia Orchestra on September 29, 2021

This Month Yannick Talks about Florence Price’s Symphony No. 4.

Florence Price’s symphonies show an evolution of her language and her personality. Even though between the First and Fourth symphonies there are only about a dozen years, I compare it to the evolution of Rachmaninoff writing his symphonies, where the language becomes more and more personal and more and more identifiable. What I love about the Fourth Symphony is the integration of the spiritual “Wade in the Water” into the symphonic fabric. The overall set of emotional impactful moments is very, very deep. There’s a quasi-religious level that is really compelling and that I could almost compare to Anton Bruckner in his symphonic works. This is especially obvious in the first movement. The second movement has the simplicity and the kind of material that is reminiscent of the second movement [“Largo”] of Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony (“From the New World”). It’s so simple and immediately touching and moving. The last movement is almost like a danse macabre, which lets the movement, and the Symphony, end not so much in a fast and happy mode but more in an almost desperate, turbulent, and troubled manner. When we recall that this was composed in 1945, we can imagine that the world’s events created that kind of angst in music and clearly Florence Price’s work is no exception.

Price’s Fourth Symphony will be performed live in Verizon Hall October 7–9, 2021, and on the Digital Stage October 13–20, 2021.

Photo by Jessica Griffin

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