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Griffes: Piano Music | Three Tone-Pictures [Garrick Ohlsson ] [Hyperion: CDA67907]
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The American composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes's piano works represent a remarkable musical achievement. Griffes was active as a composer for little more than twelve years, and did not write prolifically, but nevertheless produced pieces of great maturity which are both concise and extraordinarily powerful, showing the contemporary European influences to which he was exposed but also demonstrating a highly individual compositional voice. His Roman Sketches Op 7 contains his most famous work, 'The White Peacock' an acknowledged Impressionist masterpiece while the final movement, 'Clouds', clearly heralds the language of modernism.
Almost all of Griffes's piano music is present here, and the composer has never been better served on record than by his compatriot Garrick Ohlsson, who here applies the full force of his interpretive and technical prowess.
I suspect Garrick Ohlsson's splendid new recording, so carefully and sympathetically conceived and so powerfully persuasive, will enhance interest in Griffes's artistic achievement. --IRR, May'13
Had he not died of influenza in 1920 at the age of just 35, Charles Tomlinson Griffes might now be seen as one of the great pioneering iconoclasts of 20th-century American music, up there with Ives, Ruggles and Cowell. Though Griffes is best remembered now for a couple of orchestral pieces The White Peacock and The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan it's his piano music that most clearly demonstrates the way in which he commuted between the different currents of modernism in the first two decades of the century. There are pieces here that combine the impressionism of Debussy and Ravel with the obsessive thematic working of Scriabin; others, a bit later, that suggest the primitivism of Stravinsky and Prokofiev, and even occasionally hint at the Second Viennese School. If that suggests a bit of a hotch-potch, it underestimates the charm and attractiveness of the pieces; as Garrick Ohlsson's superb performances show, Griffes's piano writing is wonderfully fluent, and works like De Profundis of 1915 and the Piano Sonata of two years later suggest that all the stylistic elements were finally beginning to cohere into a real musical personality. **** --Guardian, 25/04/13
All Ohlsson's much admired distinction in the Romantic piano repertoire is on display here, and Griffes can never have sounded better. --Gramophone, June'13
Ohlsson's performances throughout are a judicious blend of absolute technical security and fantasy, giving epecially appealing treatment to the simple melodies that emerge occasionally from Griffes teeming textures. Performance and Recording **** --BBC Music Magazine, Aug'13
Critics Choice 2013 --Gramophone, Dec'13
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In this stunning recording by Garrick Ohlsson, profound thought as well as technical mastery is very much in evidence. When the music calls for sensuality, Ohlsson provides it in spades; the Notturno of the Fantasy Pieces is lush and erotic. When Impressionism perfumes the music, as in the Three Tone-Pictures, Ohlsson responds with color and sensitivity. But it is also quite obvious that the pianist has given great consideration and study to the Sonata; Ohlsson does understand that this work is revolutionary. The influence of jazz is not overt in this interpretation, but it is obviously a part of Ohlsson's deliberation. The pianist has completely won me over. The recorded sound is outstanding as well. This collection of works by Griffes is the one to own.
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