Charles Tomlinson Griffes
was one of the bright lights in American
art music. Greatly influenced by Debussy
and Ravel, Griffes was able to combine
the impressionist ideal with a truly
original melodic gift to create some
of the most elegant music ever penned
in this country. Alas, this light was
extinguished all too soon when the composer
died at the early age of thirty-five
This concert of orchestral
works played by the Buffalo Philharmonic
is, with one small blemish, one of the
loveliest recordings to have crossed
the desk in some weeks. JoAnn Falletta
has crafted a splendid shimmering string
section, and achieves a balance and
clarity that rivals the likes of Dutoit
in his heyday at Montreal. The sense
of line is superb, and when fine music
is coupled with playing of this caliber,
there cannot help but be a winsome result.
Like his hero Ravel,
Griffes’ orchestra works were often
composed first for the piano, then later
orchestrated. The White Peacock
is a case in point. Inspired by a poem
by the British poet and novelist William
Sharp (who wrote under the pseudonym
of Fiona McLeod) this little vignette
is breathtakingly beautiful.
Next up is the disc’s
only disappointment, the three songs
on poems by McLeod. There is certainly
nothing wrong with these soaring melodies,
richly orchestrated and colorfully spun.
There is a big problem with the coreless
and wobbly soprano of Barbara Quintiliani.
She tends to sing no dynamic but loud,
and as such pushes her instrument too
hard. In addition, her enunciation is
lacking to the point of making the texts
unintelligible. Add to this that Naxos
takes the maddening shortcut of not
including printed texts in the booklet,
and these three pieces, musically engaging
as they are, could just as well have
been left off.
The miniature works
that follow the song-cycle are gem-like
in their beauty and charm and are elegantly
played. The program closes with the
haunting Poem for Flute and Orchestra,
and the picturesque Pleasure
Dome of Kubla Khan.
Sound quality is excellent.
It is especially gratifying that the
engineers were able to capture these
performances in such crystalline sound,
a sound that captures Ms. Faletta’s
impeccable attention to detail and color.
Notes are informative and concise.
This is close to an
hour of very pleasant listening (excluding
the aforementioned songs) and is worthy
of a place on any cultured record shelf.
The music is a nice addition to the
impressionist repertoire, and a great
diversion from Afternoon of a Faun.
see also reviews
Barnett and Ian Lace