Florence Price: Sketches in Sepia

For piano (edited by John Michael Cooper)

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Additional Info

  • Composer
    Florence Price
  • Publisher
    G Schirmer Inc
  • Arrangement
    Piano (PF)
  • Format
  • Genre
    20th Century
  • Additional Contributor
    ed. John Michael Cooper


Composed in September, 1947, Sketches in Sepia typifies Price's ability to compress intense and wide-ranging emotional and stylistic journeys into compact, tautly organized structures. Outwardly, the work might seem routine: it is just sixty-four bars long and organized in a clear ternary form, with the outer sections firmly rooted in A-flat major and the central section beginning and ending in F minor. But its musical content and emotional and stylistic range are anything but routine. The A sections are relaxed and lyrical, while the central B section is rhythmically animated and stylistically agitated, beginning mf and eventually reaching an abrupt ff climax as a half-diminished seventh chord based on D natural (vii of the dominant of the home key of A-flat) gradually assumes predominance amid powerful left-hand octaves, increasingly syncopated rhythms punctuated with abrupt rests, and an expansion of the initially narrow range to a significantly broader one encompassing the entire gamut from F' to f''''. These two contrasting sections presumably account for the titular plural (sketches). But despite the pronounced contrasts between the two sections, there are also deeper connections: the insistence on F as added sixth in the harmonic language of the A theme, beginning in m. 1, prepares that tone's importance as the defining pitch of the B section: F is always present from the outset, even before it becomes the central key. Similarly, the blue thirds that emerge in mm. 10 and 13 anticipate the jazz influences and harmonic language of the B section — which, because of these connections, never quite leaves the Sketches even after the A section returns.
— John Michael Cooper

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