Welcoming a more diverse roster of composers in classical recordings

Posted on: October 15, 2020

“In decades past, classical recordings were synonymous with dead composers and artists with a European pedigree,” writes David Patrick Stearns last Wednesday (10/7) at New York classical radio station WQXR. “Not even the powerful Leopold Stokowski could record the African American composers he championed (such as William Grant Still). But now, such barriers are sidestepped by far more numerous entry points…. Consider the case of Florence Price (1887–1953). Up until a year or so ago, that name was virtually unknown.” Several new recordings feature Price’s work, and “her chamber music has been on some of the first live concerts in New York since the lockdown (including her String Quartet No. 1 by the Harlem Chamber Players), and her Symphony No. 1 will be streamed by the Philadelphia Orchestra … The bonus in these recordings is the little-known worlds they allow you to visit. [Julius] Eastman captures and distills that sleazy, crazy, sexy, let’s-try-anything era of pre-AIDS New York. Few Dvořák-era American composers are heard today, and now we have an entire output that realizes Dvořák’s vision of an American music based in African American sensibility. So we aren’t just listening to music here. We’re time traveling into people’s souls.”