When I’ve listened to Florence Price’s music over the last few years, I’ve thought often of Antonin Dvorak’s observation from the time he spent in the United States, among American musicians and composers. Paraphrasing, Dvorak noted that the American musicians in that time were relying heavily on the forms and modes coming out of Europe. There isn’t anything particularly wrong with that, and a lot of fine music, if not great music, emerged from composers like Edward MacDowell. But Dvorak–whose own music was deeply steeped in the folk music of his beloved homeland in Moravia and Bohemia–felt that American music’s real rise to greatness would come when composers looked not to Europe for inspiration but rather to the music of Native Americans and the African-American community.
Later in the 20th century, this would come to pass, and Florence Price was a part of that.
This work is simply called “Concert Overture No. 2”, but its musical forebears do indeed come from the African spirituals of her own forebears. The work’s mood is set from the very beginning in that unique blend of sad hopefulness that imbues so many of those very spirituals.