Pianist Emanuele Torquati immerses himself deeply into these pieces, giving them life and lift.
Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884 - 1920) was endowed with a creative vein that allowed him to produce, in the space of a decade, works for the piano that were to become a point of reference for the following generation of American composers, especially Charles Ives and Aaron Copland. Indeed, Copland paid him posthumous tribute at Harvard in 1952: "what he gave those of us who came after him was a sense of the adventurous in composition, of being thoroughly alive to the newest trends in world music and to the stimulus that might be derived from such contact."
Such exuberance and influence is mostRead more vividly apparent in the three-movement Sonata which is the most forward-looking work on the disc. In its bitonality and untameable energy lie the seeds of a modern American music waiting to be nurtured by Ives and Elliott Carter. Earlier works are poetically inspired, such as teh Roman Sketches, Op. 7, which became repertoire items for the likes of Olga Samaroff and Dame Myra Hess. With its overlapping chords, "Nightfall" conjures up an aura of mystery, while "The Fountain of Acqua Paola" is a virtuoso piece somewhat reminiscent of Liszt's Les jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este. No less a figure than Ferruccio Busoni was greatly struck by Griffes's music, especially the three-movement cycle of tone poems from which this album draws its evocative title, The Vale of Dreams.
This CD may very well be an introduction for many listeners to Griffes’ unique sound world. It covers a lot of ground in Griffes’ career, and some of the pieces included, such as the piano versions of the 3 Tone Pictures (which impressed Ferruccio Busoni so much when he toured the U.S. that he helped Griffes get them published), the Winter Landscape, De Profundis and Rhapsody in B minor are far from common. He was consistently interesting and high-minded; he never wrote a single piece that was cheap, common, or purposely aimed at popular tastes; and thus his music remains fascinating because it communicated something deeply touching and deeply human about this sad and often lonely man who lived his life for art and beauty.
Will this be enough to encourage other pianists, and orchestras, to start programming Griffes? Probably not. He’s still one of those hothouse flowers of the classical world who apparently only appeals to the most high-minded, but this is truly great music that shouldn’t be missed.