Saturday, December 19
The short career of Charles Tomlinson Griffes is one of the more tragic “might-have-beens” of American music history. Griffes died at 35 years old, in 1920, just as his music was being taken up by the major American orchestras of his day.
As most American composers of his time, Griffes studied in Germany, and his early works were, not surprisingly, rather Germanic in tone. But beginning around 1911, Griffes began composing works inspired by French impressionism and the art of Asia.
The Boston Symphony under Pierre Monteux premiered his tone-poem “The Pleasure Dome of Kubla-Khan,” and the New York Symphony under Walter Damrosch his “Poeme” for flute and orchestra. On today’s date in 1919, the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski premiered four orchestral pieces: “Nocturne,” “Bacchanale,” “Clouds,” and one of his best works, entitled “The White Peacock.” The Philadelphia newspaper reviews of the premieres called Griffes’ work, “one of the hopeful intimations for the future of American music.”
A severe bout of influenza left Griffes too weak to attend these Philadelphia premieres under Stokowski, and he died of a lung infection the following spring.
Music Played in Today's Program
Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884 – 1920) The White Peacock Dallas Symphony; Andrew Litton, cond. Dorian 90224
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