Florence Price’s star continues to rise. Her two violin concertos were rediscovered among piles of old papers in 2009, when renovators entered her old Illinois summer house more than half a century after her death. Now they find an ideal champion in the US violinist Randall Goosby, whose recording of them follows on from his 2021 debut, Roots, exploring music associated with Black America. Together with the Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, he presents Price’s concertos alongside an appealingly unhackneyed performance of Bruch’s blockbuster Concerto No 1, his playing full of old-school warmth and breadth but never schmaltzy. In the Bruch, he and Nézet-Séguin resist many temptations to milk the bits you’d expect, and yet the performance has plenty of romance.
Price’s first concerto dates from 1939, and there is no record of any performance in her lifetime. The first solo violin entry has echoes of the same moment in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, and that work – the most sprawling of the romantic warhorse concertos – could be seen more generally as the model for Price’s, which luxuriates in good tunes more than it seeks to wrangle with matters of musical tension and resolution. Overall it’s as if the Gershwin of Porgy and Bess met the Richard Strauss of Ein Heldenleben and Till Eulenspiegel. The first movement especially has a storytelling feel, with some extended orchestral interludes that wouldn’t be out of place covering scene changes; the second is bluesy, the third a short study of knotty perpetual motion.
The Concerto No 2 is a more streamlined affair, a single movement lasting a quarter of an hour. Written in 1952, the year before Price’s death, it’s the work of a more experienced composer, and that tells in the succinct interplay between orchestra and soloist. It deserves to be heard, and Goosby and his colleagues make it sing.
This week’s other pick
Price’s music also features on Because, a rewarding album of songs and spirituals – everything from Deep River to I Heard it Through the Grapevine – from the countertenor Reginald Mobley and jazz pianist Baptiste Trotignon. They make an unusual pairing but their thought-through sequence works thanks to Mobley’s poised, easy delivery, every word telling – he sounds ruffled only in the fastest, lowest songs – and playing from Trotignon that moves fluidly between any number of pop and jazz styles. You can hear it live at a BBC Proms concert in Gateshead this summer.