Florence Price’s Fantasie Nègre No. 1

When Sharon set out to learn Florence Price’s Fantasie Nègre No. 1 in E minor in 2023, she didn’t know what she was getting herself into. After purchasing the score, she sight-read it and found multiple oddities; when she checked the sheet music against the handwritten manuscript Price herself submitted to the Library of Congress, Sharon discovered that the publisher had introduced dozens of errors and misplaced (or missing) markings.

She spent 6 months painstakingly correcting the sheet music she’d purchased, but the process turned into a larger process than editing and playing—curious about why the score was so bad, she asked around, interviewing others involved in editing and performing Florence Price’s music, and ended up writing a major investigative article for VAN Magazine.

On top of the article, others heard about Sharon’s efforts; James Bennett II with WGBH interviewed Sharon for a story about the project and recorded her demonstrating some of the errors printed in the score.

Sharon is currently preparing to record her version of Fantasie Nègre No. 1, to be released later in 2024.


Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s Piano Concerto in G minor

Sharon was learning Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s (Felix Mendelssohn’s sister) Sonata in G minor and kept making unusual discoveries: the sonata, written for solo piano, contained multiple instances of orchestral-type writing, solo-vs-tutti-type passages, and many parallels with Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto in G minor. Sharon knew that Fanny—a formidable and ambitious composer who was socially discouraged from writing and performing large-scale works—had written some of her piano works with orchestral ideas in mind, and developed a hypothesis that the Sonata in G minor was Fanny’s blueprint for the piano concerto she wouldn’t have been able to write.

The idea would have been just that—an idea—if Sharon had not tweeted about it.

People began volunteering their skills for this project. San Francisco composer Patricia Wallinga offered to orchestrate the concerto; Boston composer J. Andrés Ballesteros brought the ensemble and venue on board. With the Ballets Russes Arts Initiative in Boston giving the project a home, the group labored for years to bring the concerto to life.

On June 16, 2023, Sharon performed the workshop premiere of the concerto in Boston, with Britney Alcine conducting and Kyra Davies as concertmaster.

Sheila Hayman, Fanny Mendelssohn’s great-great-great-granddaughter and director of the documentary The Other Mendelssohn, said of the project:

One of the best parts of making our documentary ‘Fanny: The Other Mendelssohn’ was discovering all the fantastic musicians dedicating their time to rediscovering and promoting her music. So of course I was delighted by Sharon’s imaginative expansion of her piano sonata into a concerto. Fanny’s circumstances tragically prevented her from composing on a large scale during her lifetime, and it’s wonderful to see, in this work, what she might have achieved.

The concerto was a behemoth of a project that required significant funding; many, many thanks to the Hegardt Foundation, the Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Rebecca Clarke Society, the Aurora Charitable Fund, and multiple individual donors who funded the composer’s commission fee, Sharon’s performance fee, the conductor’s fee, pay for all the orchestra musicians, and travel and accommodations. Anna Winestein and the Ballets Russes Arts Initiative provided the institutional support and venue for the project and first performance.

In 2024, Sharon was awarded the Hedwig Holbrook Prize from the Turn the Spotlight Foundation for her work on this project.