PROVIDENCE — Aurea Ensemble, an eclectic chamber ensemble that explores the relationship between music and speech, will mark Women’s History Month with a program featuring Fanny Mendelssohn’s “String Quartet” and the “Piano Quintet” by Florence Price.
“We are thrilled to present two dramatic, large-scale chamber works by two remarkable women, living in disparate worlds, a century apart, whose work is finally beginning to get the recognition it deserves,” said the artistic director of Aurea, Consuelo Sherba.
The rich piano quintet in A minor by African-American pianist, singer and composer Florence Price was rediscovered in 2009 in an abandoned house in Illinois, once Price’s summer residence, as well as a trove of manuscripts , some of which had never been seen before. Aurea’s performance will be a first in Rhode Island, as this quintet has only recently been edited and recorded.
“We continue to learn more and more about the magnitude and impact of Florence Price, who had the distinction of being the first African-American woman to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra and was an important player in the Chicago Black Renaissance, having collaborated with Langston Hughes and Marian Anderson, among others,” Sherba said.
After his death in 1953, at the age of 66, Price’s work was “unfortunately, largely forgotten or neglected, as more avant-garde trends attracted more attention”, added Sherba.
“We are thrilled to combine this important addition to the canon of 20th-century American chamber music with the poetry of Maya Angelou,” she said, “which we believe resonates so powerfully with the deep spirituality of Price. Price and Angelou were both born in Arkansas, she noted.
The String Quartet by German pianist and composer Fanny Hensel Mendelssohn (sister of her more famous brother, Felix), is an equally compelling and meaningful work, Sherba said, and “deserving much more exposure.”
It is one of many recent discoveries, she explained, more than a century after her death. In Hensel’s case, Sherba said, “her aristocratic background prevented her from practicing unseemly to outwardly pursue the earnest work of a composer, and more specifically to publish under her own name.”
Plans were finally underway for Hensel to continue publishing her work when her life was cut short at the age of 41, she said.
“The fervent words of Fanny Mendelssohn, along with those of contemporary writers and fellow salonnières, George Sand and Fanny Lewald, frame the strong emotions of the piece,” she said, “putting the movement into context. rising suffrage and the fate of all women in the mid-nineteenth century.
Based in Rhode Island and founded over 15 years ago, Aurea Ensemble takes its name from Catena Aurea Homeri, or Homer’s Golden Chain, a symbol of 18th century esoteric alchemy – the combination of elements disparate into a new divine element.
“It’s the very definition of every Aurea event,” Sherba said, “a new kind of artistic experience is created from the band’s solid framework of classical, folk and contemporary music performed with eloquent poetry, journals and prose.”
Aurea often collaborates with guest artists such as musicians, actors, puppeteers, dancers and visual artists.
Guest artist Rose Weaver will join Aurea for the performance.
“Rose was Aurea’s first choice for the readings, highlighting both major musical works,” Sherba said. “We are delighted to be working with Rose again, and we are so lucky to have found a date as she ends her run in the wonderful Trinity Repertory Theater production of August Wilson’s play, ‘Gem of the Ocean ‘.”
“Rose’s great theatrical and vocal talents, along with her personal activism and deep knowledge and appreciation of Maya Angelou, are a perfect match for the gravity of this program, as well as Chris Turner’s brilliant harmonica improvisations.”