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Violin Concertos by Black Composers

Violin Concertos by Black Composers Through the Centuries—Rachel Barton Pine, violin; Encore Chamber Orchestra/Daniel Hege; Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Jonathon Heyward (Cedille 214)

With the classical music establishment—including this radio station—rushing to correct the historic indifference shown to composers of color, it’s appropriate to pause and reflect on just how far we’ve all come.  When the original version of this album was released 25 years ago, it was an oddity: 18 th and 19 th century violin works by composers of African descent?   How strange!  Now we live in a world where the Philadelphia Orchestra records the symphonies of Florence Price on Deutsche Grammophon, so it may be hard to remember just how rare Rachel Barton Pine’s album and the intention behind it were back in 1997.  When WCLV’s Bill O’Connell talked to her about this album, the musical dynamo spoke passionately about championing these pieces, not for the neglect shown their authors, but because they are great pieces that deserve to be heard.  Three of the four works on the original version of this CD are included: concertos by Joseph Bologne—Chevalier de Saint-Georges and by Jose While Lafitte, plus the Romance by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.  The fourth piece on this 25 th Anniversary Edition is the Violin Concerto No. 2 by Florence Price.  Ironically, there was room for the Price work because a concerto on the original release, by an obscure 18 th century Frenchman named Chevalier J.J.O. de Meude-Monpas, had to be dropped.  Why?  Because recent research has revealed that Meude-Monpas’s nickname, “Le Noir,” didn’t refer to him, but to the color of his horse!