Celebrating Black Composers

Celebrating Black Composers

We’re kicking off Black History Month by highlighting some of the Black composers programmed for the 2021–22 Season. Take a moment to learn more about their backgrounds and tune into our upcoming concerts!

Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745–1799) was a French composer, violinist, conductor, and master swordsman. He directed and was concertmaster of Le Concert des Amateurs, where he premiered many of his violin concerti. Virtuosic violinist Augustin Hadelich played the beautiful Saint-Georges Violin Concerto No. 2 in A Major in September 2021. Listen to an excerpt here ›

Florence Price (1887–1953) made history in 1933 as the first Black female composer to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra. She studied piano and organ at the New England Concert, despite challenges associated with racial discrimination in the Jim Crow era. Last December, the Houston Symphony performed her piece Dances in the Canebrakes, arranged for orchestra by her composer colleague William Grant Still.

Kyle Rivera (b. 1996) received his bachelor’s degree in composition and viola performance from the University of Houston. As a composer, his music has been performed by numerous ensembles including the Houston Grand Opera, the Kenari Quartet, and the Houston Symphony’s Resilient Sounds project. Rivera’s latest collaboration with the Symphony is a commission of Bridgetower Variations, inspired by George Bridgetower’s Henry. You can hear the Symphony perform the world premiere March 18 & 19 in Andrés Fest: A Symphonic Celebration.

Wynton Marsalis (b. 1961) is a nine-time Grammy award-winning trumpeter and composer. He was the first jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize, for five decades the award was only given to classical musicians. As a composer, Marsalis has brought new rhythms to the classical canon with his inventive style. Marsalis adds a tuba concerto to the repertoire—a Houston Symphony co-commission with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Houston Symphony Principal Tuba Dave Kirk will perform this piece March 26 & 27 in Andrés Fest: A Symphonic Celebration.

Carlos Simon (b. 1986) is currently the composer-in-residence for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Assistant Professor at Georgetown University. His recent commissions come from the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and many more. Music Director Designate Juraj Valčuha will conduct Simon’s An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave May 20–22.

Celebrating the music of composers from various backgrounds enriches and expands musical understanding. Reserve your seat to hear these works, and many others at houstonsymphony.org.

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