Here's your disc of the week for May 19, 2013. Each week CBC Radio 2's In Concert
looks at new classical music releases and selects one recording that you'll want to know about.
Artist: Garrick Ohlsson, piano.
Repertoire: Solo works for piano by Charles Tomlinson Griffes.
Charles Tomlinson Griffes is little more than a footnote in the history of American classical music, remembered, if at all, for his charming Poem for flute and piano. But with the release of a this terrific new CD devoted to a selection of his works for solo piano, that could well change.
Griffes: A Winter Landscape
Griffes' all-too-brief life story reads like a novella. He was born in small town New York state in 1884. His father Wilber worked as a sales clerk in a clothing store and struggled to keep the family afloat. Young Charles showed musical promise, began taking lessons from his sister and was composing short pieces for the piano when he was still in elementary school. He later went off to study music in Berlin and spent four years abroad absorbing European culture. Occasional lessons from German composer Englebert Humperdinck, who brought us the opera Hansel and Gretel, put the finishing touches on his musical education.
Griffes returned to the U.S. in 1907 and got a job teaching music at a private boys' school near New York City. For the next 12 years, until his death at the age of 35, most likely from influenza, he spent his off-hours escaping to Manhattan and composing beautiful music. Reportedly a brilliant pianist himself, Griffes created a substantial catalogue of works for solo piano, along with some orchestral pieces, songs and that ever-popular Poem for flute.
Sometimes referred to as the "American impressionist," Griffes was particularly attracted to the music of Debussy, Ravel and Scriabin, and his music reflects their influence. You'll hear rich washes of colour amid the scintillating harmonic convergences. This recording brings together his impressive Piano Sonata along with a series of short pieces with evocative titles such as The Vale of Dreams, The White Peacock and A Winter Landscape.
It's gorgeous music, and the American virtuoso Garrick Ohlsson makes a completely convincing case for Griffes's musical gifts. Ohlsson, who won the 1968 Montreal International Music Competition, is primarily known as a Chopin specialist and he brings brilliant technique and a refined sensibility to this music.
Disc of the week: David Fray plays Bach
Marc-Andre Hamelin: Vancouver Recital Society
Louis Lortie and Helene Mercier - Mozart, Schubert, Ravel