Samuel Barber, Charles Griffes FC112


Piano music of Samuel Barber and Charles Griffes performed by Lodewijk Crommelin

Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920) is little known outside North America. His untimely death at the age of 35, shortly after breakthrough performances of his music in Carnegie Hall in December 1919, may well have contributed to this. Griffes studied composition in Berlin with Engelbert Humperdinck. Upon his return to the States in 1907, it was not easy for him to gain recognition. However, when important musicians like Ferruccio Busoni and Edgar Varèse showed interest in this ‘American Impressionist’, his luck seemed to change. In the autumn of 1919, Pierre Monteux and his Boston Symphony programmed Griffes’ The Pleasure Dome of Kubla-Kahn and other works in Carnegie Hall. The piano pieces on this CD are testimony to Griffes’ great love of poetry and literature. Fragments of poems by Yeats, Poe and Verlaine were published with the scores. The Piano Sonata stands out as Griffes’ most original work with a sound of its own.

Samuel Barber (1910-1981) is best known for his Adagio for Strings. Although much more a twentieth-century composer than Griffes, for his Nocturne (1959) Barber looked back at the great examples from the 19th century. Lyrical melodies dominate his compositions, not surprising considering his background as a singer. The Sonata for Piano is Barber’s most important work for piano solo and one of the milestones of twentieth-century North American piano literature. Vladimir Horowitz played the première in 1949 in Havana. Horowitz did not keep his enthusiasm to himself, saying, ‘It is romantic, subjective, and written in the modern idiom. (…) Barber has put warmth and a heart into the work that the ultra-modern compositions, with their mechanical pyrotechnics, lack.’

Lodewijk Crommelin (1974) studied piano at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague with Marcel Baudet and Naum Grubert and musicology at Utrecht University. He continued his studies in the United States with Abbey Simon at the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston. Crommelin concertizes in various countries in Europe, the US and Asia. In addition to mainstream repertoire, he is interested in learning and performing unknown and neglected pieces such as the works of Charles Griffes.


Charles Griffes (1884-1920)
Three Tone Pictures, opus 5
1. The Lake at Evening
2. The Vale of Dreams
3. The Night Winds
Fantasy Pieces, opus 6
4. Barcarolle
5. Notturno
6. Scherzo
7. A Winter Landscape
8. Sonata (Allegretto con moto – Molto tranquillo – Allegro vivace)

Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
9. Nocturne, opus 33
10. Ballade, opus 46
Sonata for Piano, opus 26
11. Allegro energico
12. Allegro vivace e leggero
13. Adagio mesto
14. Fuga: allegro con spirito

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