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CHARLES TOMLINSON GRIFFES (1884-1920) Complete Piano Works Vol. 1  Michael Lewin (piano) rec 7-9 June 1995 Santa Rosa, California NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559023 [66.45]

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Piano Sonata (1919)
Three Tone Pictures (1910-1915)
De Profundis (1915)
Roman Sketches (1915-1916)
A Winter Landscape (1912)
Rhapsody in B minor (1912-14)
Barcarolle (1910)
Legend in F sharp minor (1915)
Prelude in B minor (1899-1900)

Griffes died young at the age of 38 He left behind him a handful of orchestral works and a slightly larger reserve of songs and piano works. Many of these piano solos receive their premiere recordings in this collection although New World have had many of the major pieces in their catalogue for some years now.

The piano sonata is a revolutionary piece. It broke the Brahmsian mould and left behind no shred of Macdowell or Liszt. It is intoxicatingly revolutionary invoking the name of Alexander Mossolov (piano sonatas 4 and 5) and even Gershwin. Lewin plays to this avant-garde tendency and is not tempted to soften the impact. Remarkable are the clanging landslides of notes in the third movement oddly mixing Rachmaninov, John Cage and Nancarrow.

The Three Tone Pieces were orchestrated but the colours are almost tangible in this performance. There are lapping waters in the first piece, a darkling Poe-like vale in the second and clouds of insects and hailing pebbles flood the sound-world of the final Night Winds.

The Roman Sketches comprise: The White Peacock (all exotic plumage even in this barer piano solo version); Nightfall (brooding); Fountains of Acqua Paola (surely this inspired Tarrega's Recuierdos de la Alhambra) and the floating majesty of Clouds complete with the wrong-note clangour of raindrops.

De profundis indulges in Wagnerian complexity. Winter Landscapes broods. The Rhapsody rushes - honouring Brahms and Rachmaninov. The Barcarolle is none other than a transcription of the silvery Barcarolle from Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann. The final Prelude is Beethovenian and ordinary.

A fine collection and well worth acquiring at any price let alone bargain price.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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