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The Fountain of the Acqua Paola - Charles Tomlinson Griffes

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by MarkB, Mar 6, 2011.

  1. MarkB

    MarkB Member Piano Society Artist

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  2. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    Hello Mark,
    I don't know much about Griffes (except of course for his The White Peacock , No.1 of the Roman Sketches). I think you did a nice job on this! I wish that the low C#/Db octave on your piano was in better tune. :? Though I think this is sufficiently well performed for posting here, I also think that with continued work and some extra time for seasoning and curing, your performnace of this work will gather more "splash" and "glistening sparkle." If I would recommend anything to you, it would be to try even further to quiet the many ostinato figures so as to allow the more melodic parts greater prominence. Thanks for posting this fine example of American Impressionism. :)

    Regards,
    Eddy
     
  3. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    A splendid job on this complex piece :!: I have never tried my hand at Griffes before, but I believe this is hard music to get into the fingers. Congratulations on such a faultless performance, which I guess must be the result of long, hard, and painstaking work. Ideally, it could sparkle and glitter a bit more (or flow, simmer and splash, throw in any number of watery adjectives :lol: ) but already this is great quality playing. A pity about the slightly boxy sound and the wimpy bass notes, this music does need a fuller and richer sound.

    Are you planning to do more Griffes ? If this is a one-off we would put it in the _Various page. OTOH I do consider Griffes an important piano composer who should maybe have his own page. In that case I'll have to ask you to provide the bio :wink:
     
  4. MarkB

    MarkB Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks for the kind comments.

    Techneut wrote :
    Griffes seems to be one of those so-called "pianistic composers" so that although there are a lot of runs up and down the keyboard etc.., it falls quite conveniently under the hand and so responds well to a slow practice.

    The lack of interest in his music I suppose is because he doesn't have a clear individual style but his individual pieces are very good and unjustly neglected.

    The bass note issue is a combination of the tuning (as per Musical-MD' comment) and the fact that it is a small grand-piano in a smallish room. If you want to hear it in full splendour then I would recommend the recording by Carole Rosenberger on Delos which uses a large Bosendorfer grand with extra bass notes - I have the LP from 80's but I believe that a CD is still available. I suppose if I add some reverberation it might improve it a little.

    Musical-MD wrote :

    Yes, I agree. They are difficult for me to control at low volume.

    I'll happily put a biography together because I agree that he deserves his own page.

    Thanks again.
     
  5. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Agree. I much admire them but also find them just a little dour. In this particular piece, though there are many felicities, one would want more sunshine to filter through, in a way that Liszt or Ravel can do in their 'water pieces'.

    Did you not add any reverb ? If not, do try some, it might sound a lot more impressive.

    That is good. So, any more Griffes in the pipeline ? Complete Roman Sketches maybe ?
     
  6. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi MarkB

    It was great hearing some Griffes. "The Fountain" is certainly one of his best pieces. I think I have all of his works in my music cabinet, but over the years have only found time to do "The Lake at Evening" as a starter, but never got back to play more of them. It's sad that he died so early in life, as it leaves us wondering what else he might have written, given his talent and potential so evident in the compositions he did leave for us. Some of his harmonies are very daring too.

    Great playing! I enjoyed listening to your recording.

    David
     
  7. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ok, this is on the side. Now awaiting the Griffes bio, Mark. Have a look on the site to see what bios should look like.
    If you can write some blurb about the Roman Sketches that would be nice too.
     
  8. MarkB

    MarkB Member Piano Society Artist

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    Chris,

    here is the biography of Griffes I have put together :

    Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920)


    "Charles Tomlinson Griffes was born in 1884 in Elmira, New York, in the United States of America. After his early studies he went on to study piano and composition at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin in 1903. His first teacher of piano in Berlin was Ernst Jedliczka but later he studied with Gottfried Galston who was a pupil of Leschetitzky. He studied composition with Phillipe Barthelemy Rufer and also Engelbert Humperdinck. Later, he returned to the USA and taught music until his untimely death from pneumonia in 1920.

    Griffes' early composition stlye incorporates influences from German Romanticism but later he moved towards early French Impressionism and oriental styles. During his short life he wrote works for piano, orchestra, voice and chamber ensembles with his best known works being the Pleasure Dome of Kubla Kahn for Orchestra and the Sonata and Roman Sketches for piano.

    The Roman Sketches are impressionistic in nature and were first published in 1917. Each piece is inspired and prefaced by a poem by the British poet William Sharp (1855-1905) from his collection "Sospiri di Roma". The pieces are "The White Peacock", "Nightfall (Al far della notte)", "The Fountain of the Acqua Paola" and "Clouds".

    I hope that is okay.

    I also added some reverberation to the recording and have attached the file to replace the earlier one. It sounds a little more "watery" this time !

    Thanks

    Griffes - Roman Sketches Op.7 - 3: The Fountain of the Acqua Paola (3:55)
     
  9. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    That sounds a whole lot better ! I'll replace it tonight. Once again, truly excellent playing.

    That bio is on the short side. We like a bio to at least fill out the space to the left of the image, this is nowhere near yet. Can you expand it a bit ?
     
  10. MarkB

    MarkB Member Piano Society Artist

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    Chris,

    I thought it sounded a lot better with the reverberation too.

    I'll expand the Griffes biography later today and re-submit it.

    Regards
    Mark
     
  11. MarkB

    MarkB Member Piano Society Artist

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    Chris,

    I've attempted to expand the biography. There are now more words than for example in the John Ireland biography so I hope it's okay. For the description of the 4 Roman Sketches I've included the extracts from the Sharp poems associated with the pieces.

    The text follows.

    Regards
    Mark

    Biography

    Charles Tomlinson Griffes was born in 1884 in Elmira, New York, in the United States of America. After his early studies with Mary Selena Broughton he went on to study piano and composition at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin in 1903. His first teacher of piano in Berlin was Ernst Jedliczka but later he studied with Gottfried Galston who was a pupil of Leschetitzky. He studied composition with Phillipe Barthelemy Rufer and also Engelbert Humperdinck. Griffes remained in Germany until 1907 where although he composed mainly songs based on German texts he also wrote choral pieces and a Symphonic Fantasy for orchestra. These early pieces were influenced by German romanticism.

    On his return to the USA in 1907 he gained employment as an organist and piano teacher at the Hackley School for Boys in Tarrytown New York. Griffes continued composing in his spare time and became familiar with the music of Debussy and Ravel. As a result, his pieces moved towards French Impressionism and oriental styles. During the next few years Gustav Schirmer started to publish his works and a number of influential artists became interested in his compositions including Pierre Monteux who premiered his most famous orchestral piece "The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Kahn" with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1919.

    Griffes' contracted pneumonia which led to his untimely death in 1920 at the age of 35. Overall he is widely thought to be the most talented American composer of his generation.

    His piano works are all pianistic in nature with his Sonata being the most monumental and is the only work that truly respresents his own style. Other major works include the 4 Roman Sketches (Opus 7), 3 Tone Pictures (Opus 5) and, 3 Fantasy Pieces (Opus 6),



    4 Roman Sketches

    The Roman Sketches are impressionistic in nature and were first published in 1917. Each piece is inspired and prefaced by an extract from poems by the British poet William Sharp (1855-1905) from his collection "Sospiri di Roma".

    The pieces are "The White Peacock", "Nightfall (Al far della notte)", "The Fountain of the Acqua Paola" and "Clouds".

    The White Peacock

    ...........
    Pale, pale as the breath of blue smoke in far woodlands.
    Here, as the breath, as the soul of this beauty,
    White as a cloud through the heats of the noontide
    Moves the White Peacock.




    Nightfall (Al far della notte)

    .............
    The long day is over.
    Dusk, and silence now:
    And Night, that is as dew
    On the Flower of the World.






    The Fountain of the Acqua Paola
    ..............
    Shimmering lights
    As though the Aurora's
    Wild polar fires
    Flashed in thy happy bubbles, died in thy foam.





    Clouds
    ..............
    Mountainous glories,
    They move superbly;
    Crumbling so slowly,
    That none perceives when
    The golden domes
    Are sunk in the valleys
    Of fathomless snow,
     
  12. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Perfect, thanks. I've put these texts on the two pages, and replaced the recording.
     
  13. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Very nice playing on this water piece by Griffes, a composer I had not heard of (admittedly I tend not to branch out a lot beyond the standard repertoire). Though I find little original here (the harmonies and pianistic orchestration seemingly derivative of Ravel and late Liszt without an original stylistic voice), I do find this piece a pleasing listen that certainly seems to evoke its intended image.

    Your playing generally seems to me to be clear and precise. It seemed as though maybe the beginning was a bit rocky and heavy and that you warmed up more as you got into it. Really the single thing I would recommend is a greater focus on seeing the whole -- that is, focusing less on the individual notes and more on achieving the sweep and freedom the music demands. I personally would like to hear a greater dynamic range, greater differentiation between melodic and accompanimental figurations, and less "notiness" for some of the watery arpeggiations.

    That said, however, IMHO I think this is a very good, solid performance. Well done!

    Joe
     

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