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Ferde Grofé

Biography

Born: March 27, 1892; NY   Died: April 3, 1972; Santa Monica, CA  
Ferdinand Rudolph von Grofé was born into a musical family. His maternal grandfather, Bernard Bierlich, was first-desk cellist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. His mother was also a cellist, his father a singing actor, and when grandfather Bierlich moved to Los Angeles, he became first cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where Grofé's uncle Julius was already concertmaster.

Young Ferdinand was taken to Los Angeles shortly after
Read more he was born. He made quick progress in learning to read music and play piano. After his father died in 1899, his mother took him with her when she went to study music in Leipzig for three years. She returned to Los Angeles, opened a studio, and soon afterwards remarried.

Grofé was an indifferent student, always spending time learning new band instruments. He ran away from home after his stepfather refused to let him quit school and worked at unskilled jobs, writing popular songs at night. These brought him to the attention of The Elks (an American benevolent association), who commissioned him to write a special song for their 1909 convention; the song gained some popularity. Soon Grofé joined his grandfather and uncle in the Philharmonic, as a violist. In his spare time he played in dance halls, sometimes billing himself as "Professor Grofé." He founded his own jazz band in San Francisco and wrote arrangements for it.

In 1919 bandleader Paul Whiteman heard one of these arrangements. Grofé accepted a job as pianist and arranger, and immediately started taking orchestration lessons from Pietro Floridia. His very first arrangement for Whiteman was a success: "Whispering" became a million-selling hit. When the Whiteman band relocated to New York, Grofé went with them. His orchestral ideas laid the foundation for what became the big-band sound. More important, he conceived the basic format that makes jazz playing in large ensembles possible: the contrasting of fully written-out orchestra passages with improvised "breaks."

In 1923 Whiteman conceived a concert to be given at Aeolian Hall in New York. "An Experiment in Modern Music" presented a number of jazz-style classically composed pieces played by the Whiteman Band, many scored by Grofé. Among them was George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, in Grofé's orchestration. The event made Grofé nearly as famous as Gershwin, and Grofé's symphonic version of the work has become the one best known to audiences.

Grofé began to widen his ambitions as a composer. He wrote the Mississippi Suite and, a few years later, the Grand Canyon Suite for the Whiteman orchestra, later enlarging them for symphony. In 1931 he resigned from the Whiteman organization and became conductor of the Capitol Theater orchestra in New York, hosted a network radio program, and was appointed to teach orchestration at the Juilliard School in 1939. During World War II he tirelessly conducted service bands and USO shows.

After the war he continued to write generally light music with a jazzy American flavor. A piano concerto was his most ambitious composition in a pure classical idiom. He also tried to follow up on the Mississippi and Grand Canyon suites with innumerable musical portraits of the American scene, including suites named for the Hudson River, Death Valley, Hollywood, San Francisco, New England, Virginia City, the World's Fair, and Mark Twain, as well as an Aviators' Suite, an Atlantic Crossing Suite, and a Niagara Falls Suite. These were generally played a few times and set aside. However, at the very end of the twentieth century there were some revivals of this forgotten music. Grofé died in Los Angeles shortly after his 80th birthday. Read less
American Classics - Grofé: Grand Canyon Suite, Etc
Release Date: 06/01/1999   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559007   Number of Discs: 1
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American Classics - Grofé: Death Valley Suite, Etc
Release Date: 09/17/2002   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559017   Number of Discs: 1
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American Classics - Grofé: Grand Canyon Suite, Etc / Stromberg, Et Al
Release Date: 04/16/2002   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 5110002   Number of Discs: 1
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Browse 1-25 of 55 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Leonard Bernstein Edition - Concertos & Orchestral Works
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 301330 Release Date: 10/27/2014   Number of Discs: 80
    Composer:  Samuel Barber,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Béla Bartók  ... 
    Performer:  Isaac Stern,  Leonard Bernstein,  Harold Gomberg,  William Heim  ... 
    Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein,  Seiji Ozawa,  Maurice Peress
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  New York Philharmonic members,  Columbia Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 2.
    RCA Living Stereo Collection Vol 1
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 541497 Release Date: 04/15/2014   Number of Discs: 60
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Claude Debussy,  Jacques Ibert,  Maurice Ravel  ... 
    Performer:  Berj Zamkochian,  John Weicher,  Philip Farkas,  Jascha Heifetz  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Munch,  Fritz Reiner,  Kiril Kondrashin,  Arthur Fiedler  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  New England Conservatory Chorus,  New England Conservatory Alumni Chorus  ... 
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    On sale! $125.98
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  • 3.
    Byron Janis - The Complete RCA Album Collection
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 548440 Release Date: 04/16/2013   Number of Discs: 12
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Franz Schubert,  George Gershwin,  Ferde Grofé  ... 
    Performer:  Byron Janis
    Conductor:  Fritz Reiner,  Charles Munch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra
    On sale! $64.98
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  • 4.
    Arturo Toscanini - The Complete RCA Collection
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 791631 Release Date: 07/10/2012   Number of Discs: 85
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Franz Joseph Haydn  ... 
    Performer:  Eileen Farrell,  Nan Merriman,  Jan Peerce,  Norman Scott  ... 
    Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra,  Robert Shaw Chorale,  NBC Symphony Chorus  ... 
    On sale! $149.98
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  • 5.
    Imaginary Landscapes - Sounds of America [20-CD Set]
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 44290 Release Date: 07/03/2012   Number of Discs: 20
    Composer:  John Philip Sousa,  Scott Joplin,  Ferde Grofé,  George Gershwin  ... 
    Performer:  Joshua Rifkin,  Ralph Grierson,  Richard Rodney Bennett,  Barry Tuckwell  ... 
    Conductor:  Timothy Foley,  George Sponhaltz,  Felix Slatkin,  Ferde Grofé  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Great American Main Street Band,  Southland Stingers,  Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 6.
    Gershwin: An American In Paris;   Grofe: Grand Canyon Suite / Schwarz, Seattle Symphony
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8571205 Release Date: 05/29/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Gershwin,  Ferde Grofé
    Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
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  • 7.
    Mystic Chords Of Memory / United States Navy Band
    Label: Altissimo   Catalog: 70162 Release Date: 01/31/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jerry Brubaker,  Robert Jäger,  Morton Gould,  César Franck  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  United States Navy Band
    CD: $17.99
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  • 8.
    Louisiana: A Pianist's Journey / Kenneth Boulton
    Label: Cambria   Catalog: 1171 Release Date: 10/26/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Niemann,  Roy Spaulding Stoughton,  John Parsons Beach,  Ferde Grofé  ... 
    Performer:  Kenneth Boulton
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  • 9.
    Arturo Toscanini - The XX Century
    Label: Urania   Catalog: 416 Release Date: 07/27/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ferde Grofé,  Zoltán Kodály,  Sergei Prokofiev,  Richard Strauss  ... 
    Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra
    On sale! $22.98
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  • 10.
    Grofé: Grand Canyon Suite, Piano Concerto / Ferde Grofé
    Label: Philips   Catalog: 422304 Release Date: 05/13/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ferde Grofé
    Performer:  Jesús María Sanromá
    Conductor:  Ferde Grofé
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 11.
    Leonard Bernstein - The Royal Edition Vol 27 - Copland, Etc
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 47544 Release Date: 11/10/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Aaron Copland,  Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez,  Ferde Grofé,  Camargo Mozart Guarnieri  ... 
    Performer:  John Corigliano Sr.,  Netania Davrath,  Carl Stern
    Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 12.
    A Tribute To Stanley Black
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 473940 Release Date: 04/24/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Jerry Bock,  Richard Rodgers,  Leonard Bernstein,  Irving Berlin  ... 
    Performer:  Ethel Merman,  Stanley Black,  Caterina Valente,  Dickie Valentine
    Conductor:  Stanley Black
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Festival Orchestra,  London Festival Chorus,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $24.98
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  • 13.
    Banjo Spectacular; The Twin Pianos Of Fred Hartley
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 452494 Release Date: 12/04/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Lew Pollack,  Nacio Herb Brown,  Henry Sullivan,  Maurice Yvain  ... 
    Performer:  Fred Hartley
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Buckingham Banjos
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 14.
    Great American Grofé / Slatkin, Grofe, Hollywood Bowl So
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 34451 Release Date: 11/24/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ferde Grofé
    Conductor:  Ferde Grofé,  Felix Slatkin
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capitol Symphony Orchestra,  Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra
    CD: $12.99
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  • 15.
    Toscanini Collection Vol 38 - Gershwin, Grofé, Barber
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 60307 Release Date: 07/23/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Gershwin,  Ferde Grofé,  Samuel Barber,  John Philip Sousa  ... 
    Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 16.
    Stardust - Enchanted Mood Music / Fiedler, Boston Pops
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 35045 Release Date: 02/21/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johnny Mandel,  Marvin Hamlisch,  Billy Strayhorn,  Edward "Duke" Ellington  ... 
    Performer:  Edward "Duke" Ellington,  Al Hirt,  Peter Nero
    Conductor:  Arthur Fiedler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Pops
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 17.
    Golden Age Light Music - Four Decades Of Light Music Vol 2 - 1940s & 1950s
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 5135 Release Date: 11/06/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ferde Grofé,  David Rose,  Eric Coates,  Charles Williams  ... 
    Conductor:  Meredith Willson,  Philip Green,  Rudi P. O'Donnell (W/Comd.),  Charles Williams  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Meredith Willson Orchestra,  Philip Green Orchestra,  RAF Central Orchestra  ... 
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  • 18.
    Symphonic Jazz - Grofe And Gershwin - Original Paul Whiteman Orchestra Versions
    Label: Bridge   Catalog: 9212 Release Date: 10/24/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ferde Grofé,  George Gershwin
    Performer:  Lincoln Mayorga,  Al Galladoro
    Conductor:  Steven Richman
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Harmonie Ensemble
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  • 19.
    Copland, Grofe / Morton Gould
    Label: Rca Victor Living Stereo   Catalog: 67904 Release Date: 02/07/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ferde Grofé,  Aaron Copland
    Conductor:  Morton Gould
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Morton Gould Orchestra
    Recommendation
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  • 20.
    Kdfc - Islands Of Sanity 3 - 100% Natural
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8557917 Release Date: 11/01/2005   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Anton Rubinstein,  Ferde Grofé,  Frederick Delius,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  François-Joël Thiollier,  Peter Donohoe,  Idil Biret,  Jénö Jandó  ... 
    Conductor:  Stephen Gunzenhauser,  William T. Stromberg,  David Lloyd-Jones,  Mike Dixon  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra,  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Scottish National Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $18.99
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  • 21.
    Drive Time - Route 66
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 94772 Release Date: 06/28/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ferde Grofé,  Ennio Morricone,  Elmer Bernstein,  Dimitri Tiomkin
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  • 22.
    Expanded Edition - Gershwin, Grofe, Etc / Bernstein, Et Al
    Label: Sony Classical Masterworks   Catalog: 90393 Release Date: 09/30/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Gershwin,  Ferde Grofé,  Leonard Bernstein
    Performer:  Leonard Bernstein,  John Corigliano Sr.,  Benny Goodman
    Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Symphony Orchestra,  New York Philharmonic,  Columbia Jazz Band
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  • 23.
    American Classics - Explore America Vol 1
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8559187 Release Date: 05/20/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Florence Beatrice Price,  John Philip Sousa,  Charles Ives,  Michael Torke  ... 
    Performer:  Maria Corley,  Darryl Taylor,  Colin Currie,  William Bolcom  ... 
    Conductor:  Keith Brion,  James Sinclair,  Marin Alsop,  William T. Stromberg  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Artillery Band,  Northern Sinfonia,  Royal Scottish National Orchestra  ... 
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  • 24.
    American Classics - Grofé: Death Valley Suite, Etc
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8559017 Release Date: 09/17/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ferde Grofé
    Conductor:  William T. Stromberg
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
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  • 25.
    American Classics -  An American Salute - Spirit Of The Nation
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8559147 Release Date: 06/18/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Stafford Smith,  Morton Gould,  John Philip Sousa,  Traditional  ... 
    Conductor:  Peter Breiner,  Theodore Kuchar,  Keith Brion,  Richard Hayman  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Ukrainian National Symphony Orchestra,  Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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