Florence Price: Song Without Words in A Major

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


For piano (edited by John Michael Cooper)

Florence Price's Song Without Words In A Major was composed on 21 April 1932. It was thus apparently Price's second contribution to the genre — the first being the G-major Song without Words that, according to its autograph, was "composed in 1928 or [the] early '30's [sic]." Stylistically, the two are cut from the same cloth — short, lyrical pieces for piano solo that, after the model of the Lieder ohne Worte first cultivated by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy in the 1820s, imitate the textures of a solo song or vocal duet with piano accompaniment. Yet the A-major composition is the more self-assured of the two. Like its G-major predecessor, it entrusts the melody almost exclusively to the right hand and is cast in a ternary form whose middle section is related to that of the main sections by a third (C-sharp minor in this case). But the melodies of the A-major Song without Words are more expansive, with more broadly arching phrases and more developed cadences. Of particular note in the A-major Song without Words are mm. 40-51. Up until this point, the piece has proceeded in mostly regular and clearly balanced two- and four-bar phrases — and in the hands of a lesser composer it might have continued to do so from here on as well. But Price chooses instead to suspend this regular forward movement. Instead, she gives us a distended cadential prolongation launched by a long chromatic descent in the inner voices and moving through a sumptuously voiced ascending arpeggio to a gradual slowing of the note-values before, finally, offering the expected authentic cadence in mm. 49-51. The result is that despite its pervasive lyricism, the A-major Song without Words also has a clearly dramatic shape that provides a strong sense of built-up expectations and delayed resolution — Price's way of imparting her characteristic sure-fire sense of dramatic pacing to a genre whose heritage typically privileged lyricism over drama.

— John Michael Cooper

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