Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
John Jeter and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra — Price: Symphony No. 3, The Mississippi River & Ethiopia's Shadow in America (Naxos)
John Jeter spends most of his time as music director and conductor of Arkansas’s Fort Smith Symphony. He’s a big believer in promoting the culture of his state, even if it means going to Europe. For the second recording in his series celebrating the music of Florence Price, Jeter travelled to Vienna to work with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra on his new recording, Price: Symphony No. 3, The Mississippi River & Ethiopia's Shadow in America.
How did you start this series devoted to the music of Florence Price?
“We have an archive with many of Price’s manuscripts at the University of Arkansas, which is one hour north from where I live. When I was able to go up there and see all this music, that was just sitting, I thought it would make a fantastic project.”
What's most intriguing about her work?
“There's a lot of blues harmonies. There are some great, almost revival-like-meeting moments in the 'Juba' movement of Symphony No. 3.”
Can you talk about Mississippi River and what it means?
“This is Smetana, as Muldowney, on steroids. This might be her most expansive orchestral work. It has a film music, cinema graphic connotation to it, which is interesting because Price played piano and organ for silent films.
“It's filled with various spirituals. You go through Native American landscape and New Orleans. You can hear some Steamboat Willie and there's a cowboy hangout you pass by. Of course, there has to be rapids on a river.
“At the end, the river literally empties out into the gulf and it flows very softly to the expanse of the ocean. It's great and I'm so glad she did it this way. Just a sustained chord and a little bit of a harp at the end.”
Can you explain what Ethiopia's Shadow in America means?
“For whatever reason, that name [Ethiopia] became synonymous with thinking about Africa at that time. The idea of slaves coming to America is a weighty and terrible experience. The work attempts to try to understand that. It might look towards some sort of religious or spiritual guidance.”
To hear the rest of my conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.