The Symphony in E minor is the first symphony written by the American composer Florence Price. The work was completed in 1932 and was first performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the conductor Frederick Stock in June 1933. The piece was Price's first full-scale orchestral composition and was the first symphony by a black woman to be performed by a major American orchestra.
Symphony No. 1 (Price) Wikipedia
The symphony has a duration of roughly 40 minutes and is composed in four numbered movements.
The symphony was composed between January 1931 and early 1932 while Price recovered from broken foot. In February 1932, Price entered the symphony in the Rodman Wanamaker Competition, in addition to three other concert works that she composed. While all of Price's entrees received recognition, her Symphony in E minor won the first place $500 prize for an orchestral work. The award brought Price national recognition and caught the attention of the conductor Frederick Stock of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Stock later premiered the symphony with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in June 1933.
Price drew inspiration for the piece from Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 in E minor, From the New World.
The work is scored for an orchestra comprising two flutes, two piccolos, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, and strings.
The initial critical response to the symphony was positive, though the work has since fallen into relative obscurity. In 2012, Bob McQuiston of NPR called it "an early American symphony worthy of being rediscovered." He further remarked:
The opening movement has melodies and rhythms typically found in Afro-American folk music, and recalls Dvorák's New World Symphony, while the following slow movement features a moving hymn tune of Price's design. Both concluding movements are fast and return to the juba dance concept. They contain hints of fiddles and banjos, antic slide whistle effects, and a recurring three-against-two melody which end this loveable work on a whimsical note.