February 17, 2021

Rarely Heard Work Is On Orchestra Program

NOTABLE DEBUT: Pianist Michelle Cann is soloist, for the first time, with the Philadelphia Orchestra on February 18 and 25 as part of the current Digital Stage concert series. With conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin on the podium, Cann plays a 1934 work by Black composer Florence Price. (Photo by Jeff Fusco)

Pianist Michelle Cann makes her Philadelphia Orchestra debut with the Orchestra’s first performance of Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement in digital performances on February 18 and 25. Also on the program, conducted by Yannick Nezet-Seguin, are works by Rossini and Schubert.

The Digital Stage is the orchestra’s online content platform. Performances have been reimagined and filmed, without audiences, at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts and Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center. Concerts are available on demand for ticket-holders for one week following the premieres. The concerts with Cann were originally scheduled, pre-pandemic, for March 4-11, 2021.

Shortly after its premiere in 1934, a Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph reviewer wrote, “There [in the Concerto] is real American music, and Mrs. Price is speaking a language she knows.” Like her celebrated Symphony No. 1, Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement evokes her experiences as a Black woman raised in the post-Civil War South. The work contains references to spirituals, call-and-response, and the “juba” — a lively, syncopated plantation dance that predates the Civil War.

This performance marks the first time the piece has been played in North America in its original orchestration since the composer’s death in 1953, and possibly since the mid-1930s. Cann’s performance is supported by ONEcomposer, an initiative dedicated to musicians whose contributions have been historically erased, housed at Cornell University. In providing a platform for the study, performance, and discussion of a single, underrepresented composer’s life and legacy, ONEcomposer promotes a more complete understanding of musical histories.

For ticket information, visit philorch.org.