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The Lost Manuscripts of Composer Florence Price

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Host Scott Yoo travels to the University of Arkansas with violinist Er-Gene Kahng and pianist Karen Walwyn to get an up-close look at classical music composer Florence Price’s previously lost manuscripts.

TRANSCRIPT

It's like having a birthday party, getting to look inside of these boxes.

The archive here contains all of Price's original manuscripts.

Violinist Er-Gene Kahng and pianist Karen Walwyn have been studying her works.

So Er-Gene, I heard that this music was found in the attic of some abandoned house. Is that true?

It is true.

All of this music here was found in an abandoned home near Chicago and was acquired by the University.

A tree had fallen into the roof. The furniture was, tables on top of chairs. The music was scattered all over.

Can you imagine if fire took the manuscripts?

That's what's exciting, that this music lives.

Well, let's get our gloves on and take a look.

How about this one. Let me see what's in here. Ah... Tarantella.

Tarantella. Wow.

This is one of the first dateable compositions that has been recovered, so-. This is one of her earliest pieces?

One of her earliest pieces.

It's interesting that she's writing kind of a European form in the deep South.

This would perhaps most demonstrate her style as she was influenced by New England conservatory.

♪♪♪ Tarantellas were composed for pianists, extraordinary vitality, strength, dexterity, which resonates with the fact that if she is considering her utensils, then she definitely had a magnificent hand.

♪♪♪ Okay, it looks like we're looking at Wistful, which is from her Five Preludes.

It's your music.

You know, I'm reminded of Chopin, and I'm reminded of Schumann.

She writes in such an intimate way, really speaks.

It's almost like a whisper.

For me actually it's the exact opposite. It's power and harmonic density, because my experience with Price is later on in her life, the symphonies, the concertos. And in fact, I think the violin concerto is in that box.

I'd love to show it to you.

♪♪♪ You know, hand writing and penmanship in itself is a practice and an art.

You can almost use this score to perform with. Almost.

We were looking at Beethoven's manuscript of his Ghost trio. Scratch outs -- Wow.

Lines and lines and lines of music. She's gently, gently scratching out an errant mark.

You can see that part of her personality just in her penmanship.

This really reminds me of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. This and this-. Even the very opening reminds me of Tchaikovsky. But for me, the heart of this concerto actually is the second movement.

This is where I feel it is truly Florence Price's voice.

The delicacy that you were speaking of, the soulfulness, the introspection, is definitely present in the second movement here for me.

♪♪♪

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