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2023 Orchestra Fall Concert

Published November 6, 2023

Poster for the 2023 Orchestra fall concert

NORTHAMPTON, MA The Smith College Department of Music presents the 2023 Orchestra Fall Concert on Sunday, November 19th in Sweeney Concert Hall. The Smith College Orchestra, conducted by Jonathan Hirsh, will present Suite of Dances by American composer Florence Price and Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto, featuring soloist Jiayan Sun. The conductor and soloist will have a brief conversation to open the concert. The concert begins at 3 pm and is free and open to the public.

Florence Beatrice (Smith) Price was the first Black woman to gain national status and garner success as a symphonic music composer. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1887, Price began learning music from her mother at an early age and graduated with a double degree in organ and piano from one of the most prestigious musical academies in the U.S., the New England Conservatory in Boston. Her first symphony, and perhaps her best known work is Symphony No. 1 in E minor, which won her first prize in the Wanamaker Competition in 1932. Price taught at a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Georgia and Arkansas and would continue to overcome racism and misogyny in the 1930 music scene. Suite of Dances is an orchestration of her well-known work for piano originally entitled Three Little Negro Dances. The set of piano pieces were individually subtitled “Hoe Cake”, “Rabbit Foot”, and “Ticklin’ Toes”. These movements demonstrate Price’s upbeat dance rhythms in combination with traditional Black musical styles. Her career flourished, and recognition for her art led to two more symphonies, concertos, and other orchestral works. Now, almost 70 years later, performers and conductors are rediscovering and programming her works, introducing them to a larger audience  they have long deserved. 

Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto is one of the most important concertos of the early 19th century. A monumental piece that marks a transition point in Beethoven's career, this concerto moves away from the classical style of his early works and introduces the powerful, dramatic, elements he is celebrated for today. The concerto’s blend of virtuosic piano passages and orchestral grandeur establish it as a pivotal example of concerto form. In 2005, joined by the Smith choral ensembles and the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club, the Smith Orchestra made its Carnegie Hall debut performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, under the direction of Jonathan Hirsh, Senior lecturer and Director of Orchestral and Choral Activities at Smith College.

Jiayan Sun, Assistant Professor of Music and Associate Chair for Performance Activities at Smith College, received his Bachelor’s, Master’s and the Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from The Juilliard School under the instruction of Yoheved Kaplinsky and Stephen Hough. As the Iva Dee Hiatt Visiting Artist in Piano at Smith College, he impressed local audiences by performing Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas in chronological order (2018-19), in addition to yearlong series devoted to the music of Schubert (2019-20)  and Chopin (2020-21). Sun has won awards at major international piano competitions, including third prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition, second prize at the Dublin International Piano Competition, fourth prize and the audience prize at the Cleveland International Piano Competition, and first prize at the inaugural CCC Toronto International Piano Competition. The New York Times has praised Sun for his “revelatory” performances and the Toronto Star applauded his “technically flawless, poetically inspired and immensely assured playing”.