Blogging Along the Brandywine: Standing ovation, 90 years late

It happened Sunday, March 17 in the Adler Theater of the Wells School of Music at West Chester University — a musically sophisticated audience jumped to its feet in a roaring, standing ovation while the last note of the performance was still ringing through the recital hall, demanding an encore.

The ovation was for the Kennett Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Michael Hall and for 21-year-old pianist Maxim Lando of Great Neck, Long Island, N.Y.


In his 21 years, Lando has performed at The Kennedy Center; at Carnegie Hall’s 2017 Opening Night Gala with the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Yannick Nezet-Seguin; with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra; the Israel and Moscow Philharmonics as well as the China NCPA Orchestra in Beijing.

Anthony Tommasini in the New York Times described Lando’s playing as “brilliance and infectious exuberance” combined with “wild-eyed danger.”

Maxim Lando

On Sunday afternoon, the Kennett Symphony Orchestra and Lando, playing the nine-foot Steinway concert grand, combined their talents to perform “Piano Concerto in One Movement” by Florence Price.

A concerto is a piece of classical music that features a soloist accompanied by an orchestra.

So, who is Florence Price you may ask?

The Delaware Valley and the rest of the musical world only began to discover Price in 2018 when WRTI first introduced her “Violin Concerto #2” to Philadelphia audiences. In her c.1935 letter to Boston Symphony director Serge Koussevisky, Price wrote:

"To begin with I have two handicaps – those of sex and race. I am a woman; I have some Negro blood in my veins."

Florence Price was born Florence Beatrice Smith on April 9, 1887, in Little Rock, Ark. to respected, professional parents. According to her biography, she gave her first piano recital at age 4 and published her first composition at age 11. After graduating valedictorian of her Catholic convent school at age 14, she enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts where she studied composition and counterpoint.

Florene Price

Because Price was from a racially mixed family, she listed her hometown as Pueblo, Mexico, and passed as Mexican to avoid discrimination.

In 1934 she performed her “Piano Concerto in One Movement” only once with the Chicago Musical College. Despite its musical brilliance, rich virtuosic passages and powerful hand-stretching chords, her magnificent concerto, reminiscent of Rachmaninoff, was soon forgotten.

Price composed over 300 works including four symphonies, four concertos, as well as choral works and music for solo instruments.

These works were re-discovered in 2009 when scattered pages were found 56 years after her death, in her long-deserted, dilapidated vacation home south of Chicago.

Through communication with relatives, the scores were found and the full “Piano Concerto in One Movement” was published by Shirmer, the oldest music publisher in the United States, in March 2020.

After the concert, Lando remarked about the concerto, “It deserves to be played as much as all the other concertos.”

In my heart, Sunday afternoon’s thundering standing ovation was not only for Michael Hall and Maxim Lando but for Florence Price, just 90 years delayed.

As a footnote, many of us know of the events of Easter Sunday 1939, when famed operatic contralto Marian Anderson was denied permission to perform in Washington, DC’s Constitution Hall because of her race. Upon hearing this, Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, organized a concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Over 75,000 people attended. As her final number, Anderson chose “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord” a spiritual, arranged by her long-time friend, Florence Price.

About Sally Denk Hoey

Sally Denk Hoey, is a Gemini - one part music and one part history. She holds a masters degree cum laude from the School of Music at West Chester University. She taught 14 years in both public and private school. Her CD "Bard of the Brandywine" was critically received during her almost 30 years as a folk singer. She currently cantors masses at St Agnes Church in West Chester where she also performs with the select Motet Choir. A recognized historian, Sally serves as a judge-captain for the south-east Pennsylvania regionals of the National History Day Competition. She has served as president of the Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates as well as the Sanderson Museum in Chadds Ford where she now curates the violin collection. Sally re-enacted with the 43rd Regiment of Foot and the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment for 19 years where she interpreted the role of a campfollower at encampments in Valley Forge, Williamsburg, Va., Monmouth, N.J. and Lexington and Concord, Mass. Sally is married to her college classmate, Thomas Hoey, otherwise known as "Mr. Sousa.”

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