Charles Tomlinson Griffes


Born: September 17, 1884; Elmira, NY   Died: April 8, 1920; New York, NY  
Charles Tomlinson Griffes was among the most distinctive and poetic of American composers. In the 15 years of his artistic maturity, his style evolved from German-derived post-Romanticism to a particularly personal adaptation of French Impressionism, and finally to a strong and individual style of his own. Most commentators regard his as the greatest talent of his generation.

His older sister, Katharine, started giving him piano lessons
Read more when he was young, passing on what she learned from her own teacher, Mary Selina Broughton. When the boy was 15, he started studying directly with Broughton, who was on the faculty of Elmira Free Academy. She also taught him "taste" and "gentility," and persuaded his parents that he had such talent that he should be encouraged to become a musician. She even subsidized his travel to Berlin, where he studied piano with Ernst Jedliczka and Gottfried Galston at the Stern'sche Conservatory; his counterpoint instructors were Max Lowengard and Wilhelm Klatte, and his composition professors were Philippe Rüfer and Engelbert Humperdinck. Griffes appeared at a Conservatory concert as a piano soloist in 1904, to high acclaim; but by then his interests had turned toward composition, somewhat to Broughton's disappointment. He left the Conservatory to study privately and intensively with Humperdinck, and continued in piano with Galston. He made some money by taking in pupils in piano and harmony, and by giving some concerts.

During his German period, he wrote German-language songs and a Symphonische Phantasie. He returned to the United States in September, 1907, accepting a job at the Hackley School of Tarrytown, New York, where he remained until his death in 1920 (of pneumonia, perhaps due to the 1919-1920 influenza epidemic).

Since he died young, and because the position was a relatively minor one within the world of music, biographical information has been romanticized over the years, suggesting that Griffes was trapped in a menial job, living in poverty. In fact, he found the job interesting and was much liked by fellow faculty members and students -- he was certainly not starving. Furthermore, the job included a lengthy summer period during which he could devote himself entirely to composition and promote his works in nearby New York.

During his own lifetime, piano works such as the Roman Sketches appeared and were appreciated for their poetic and descriptive beauty. The tone poem The Pleasure Dome of Kublai Khan, the Japanese ballet Sho-jo, Five Poems of Ancient China and Japan, and a major chamber ballet, The Kairn of Koridwen, all received major premieres, drawing attention to Griffes as a composer possessed of a unique voice, exceptional craftsmanship, and melodic inventiveness. His later pieces, such as the Notturno for Orchestra (1918) and the Piano Sonata are most illustrative of his mature voice; in these works, the influences of his German and French models are completely assimilated into his own harmonically adventurous palate. Read less
American Piano Sonatas Vol 2 - Griffes, Ives, Sessions / Lawson
Release Date: 07/23/2007   Label: Erato  
Catalog: 59316   Number of Discs: 1
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Browse 1-25 of 89 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    The Classical Elements / Tiu
    Label: Centaur Records   Catalog: 3503 Release Date: 01/06/2017   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Liszt,  Leopold Godowsky,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Albert Tiu
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  • 2.
    American Flutescape / Vinci, Uchina, New York Dream Orchestra
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 1649 Release Date: 11/08/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jennifer Higdon,  Katherine Hoover,  Paul Hindemith,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes  ... 
    Performer:  Jan Vinci,  Reiko Uchida
    Conductor:  Mark Vinci
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  • 3.
    Anthology of American Piano Music, Vol. 1: American First Sonatas / Licad
    Label: Danacord   Catalog: 774 Release Date: 11/08/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alexander Reinagle,  Edward MacDowell,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes,  Elie Siegmeister
    Performer:  Cecile Licad
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  • 4.
    American Album for Flute / Jennifer Stinton
    Label: Musical Concepts   Catalog: 153 Release Date: 01/20/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Muczynski,  Kent Kennan,  Howard Hanson,  Aaron Copland  ... 
    Performer:  Jennifer Stinton,  Malcolm Martineau
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  • 5.
    Playing New York / Paula Robison, Steven Beck
    Label: Pergola   Catalog: 1039 Release Date: 10/14/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Zez Confrey,  Eldin Burton,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes,  Leonard Bernstein  ... 
    Performer:  Paula Robison,  Steven Beck
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  • 6.
    The Piano in America / Dubal, Waldoff
    Label: Arkiv   Catalog: 70002 Release Date: 06/24/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Brown,  James Hewitt,  Louis Moreau Gottschalk,  Richard Hoffman  ... 
    Performer:  David Dubal,  Stanley Waldoff
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  • 7.
    Night Stories - Nocturnes / Jenny Lin
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 98037 Release Date: 05/27/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Claude Debussy,  Gabriel Fauré,  Alexander Glazunov  ... 
    Performer:  Jenny Lin
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  • 8.
    Night Soliloquy
    Label: Azica   Catalog: 71291 Release Date: 04/29/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Lili Boulanger,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes,  Samuel Barber,  Rhené-Baton  ... 
    Performer:  Lori Bell,  Diane Snodgrass,  Tamir Hendelman
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  • 9.
    Panorama Of American Piano Music / Yvar Mikhashoff
    Label: Mode   Catalog: 262 Release Date: 12/03/2013   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Leo Ornstein,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes,  Percy Aldridge Grainger,  Aaron Copland  ... 
    Performer:  Yvar Mikhashoff
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  • 10.
    The American Album / Cypress String Quartet
    Label: Avie   Catalog: 2304 Release Date: 11/12/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Antonín Dvorák,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes,  Kevin Puts,  Samuel Barber
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cypress String Quartet
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  • 11.
    Nielsen, Griffes, Martin, Ibert: Flute Concertos
    Label: Danacord   Catalog: 725 Release Date: 10/08/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Carl Nielsen,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes,  Frank Martin,  Jacques Ibert
    Performer:  Thomas Jensen
    Conductor:  Giordano Bellincampi
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  • 12.
    Boesendorfer Sound / Carol Rosenberger
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3460 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard R. Bennett,  Franz Liszt,  Enrique Granados,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Carol Rosenberger
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  • 13.
    Stopping By / Kyle Bielfield
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3445 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Amy Marcy Beach,  Samuel Barber,  Ned Rorem,  John Woods Duke  ... 
    Performer:  Kyle Bielfield,  Lachlan Glen,  Michael Samis
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  • 14.
    Great Works for Flute & Orchestra / Sharon Bezaly
    Label: Bis   Catalog: 1679 Release Date: 08/27/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Carl Nielsen,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes,  Carl Reinecke,  Cécile Louise Chaminade  ... 
    Performer:  Sharon Bezaly
    Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hague Residentie Orchestra
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  • 15.
    The Impressionists / Mary Towse-Beck
    Label: Cd Baby   Catalog: 5638131362 Release Date: 08/02/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes,  Maurice Ravel
    Performer:  Mary Towse-beck
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  • 16.
    Mercury Living Presence - The Collector's Edition Vol 2
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001831802 Release Date: 06/04/2013   Number of Discs: 55
    Composer:  Arnold Schoenberg,  Anton Webern,  Alban Berg,  Ottorino Respighi  ... 
    Performer:  Helga Pilarczyk,  Yehudi Menuhin,  Mihaly Székely,  Olga Szönyi  ... 
    Conductor:  Antal Doráti,  Rafael Kubelik,  Anatole Fistoulari,  Frederick Fennell  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra,  Philharmonia Hungarica  ... 
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  • 17.
    Griffes: Piano Music / Garrick Ohlsson
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 67907 Release Date: 05/14/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Tomlinson Griffes
    Performer:  Garrick Ohlsson
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  • 18.
    40 Tracks for 40 Years - Delos Anniversary Set
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3440 Release Date: 04/30/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Dmitri Shostakovich,  Antonín Dvorák,  Aram Khachaturian,  Erich Wolfgang Korngold  ... 
    Performer:  James Earl Jones,  Charles Butler,  Marina Domashenko,  Dmitri Hvorostovsky  ... 
    Conductor:  Andrew Litton,  Zdenek Macal,  Constantine Orbelian,  James DePreist  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dallas Symphony Orchestra,  New Jersey Symphony Orchestra,  Moscow Chamber Orchestra  ... 
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  • 19.
    American Classics
    Label: Twopianists (Label)   Catalog: 152 Release Date: 02/26/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ben Weber,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes,  Samuel Barber,  Aaron Copland
    Performer:  Lori Sims
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  • 20.
    20th Century Masterpieces, Vol. 2 / Votapek
    Label: Blue Griffin   Catalog: 263 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Isaac Albeniz,  Maurice Ravel,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes,  Nikolai Kapustin
    Performer:  Ralph Votapek
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  • 21.
    Label: Honens   Catalog: 200302 Release Date: 09/25/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Florent Schmitt,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes,  Karol Szymanowski  ... 
    Performer:  Winston Choi
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  • 22.
    Nocturnes / Michael Landrum
    Label: Sono Luminus   Catalog: 92158 Release Date: 08/28/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  John Field,  Frédéric Chopin,  Ottorino Respighi,  Alexander Scriabin  ... 
    Performer:  Michael Landrum
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  • 23.
    Taylor: Through The Looking Glass; Griffes: Poeme, Pleasure Dome Of Kubla Khan / Schwarz, Seattle Symphony
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8559724 Release Date: 08/28/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Joseph Deems Taylor,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes
    Performer:  Victoria Bogdashevskaya,  David Taylor,  Glen Danielson,  Christopher Sereque  ... 
    Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
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  • 24.
    The Very Best Of Thomas Hampson
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 94807 Release Date: 07/26/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Gioachino Rossini,  Charles Gounod,  Jules Massenet,  Georges Bizet  ... 
    Performer:  Thomas Hampson,  Marc [Baritone Vocal] Barrard,  Martine Mahé,  Placido Domingo  ... 
    Conductor:  Roger Norrington,  Michel Plasson,  Eugene Kohn,  Antonio de Almeida  ... 
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  • 25.
    Griffes: Piano Music / Joseph Smith
    Label: Arkiv   Catalog: 70001 Release Date: 05/24/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Tomlinson Griffes
    Performer:  Joseph Smith
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