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I like Griffes a lot. As to 'placing' him, I'm not quite sure. There are moments of 'impressionism' in a lot of his works, but I also get an extremely strong "Romantic" feeling. And I think his late Piano Sonata showed that he was heading in a completely different direction, pretty much unencumbered by any particular 'school' of composition. IMO it's an extremely powerful and individual work. Certainly one of the best (and too few) of American piano sonatas.

I've performed his "Fantasy Pieces", and can't praise them enough. They're difficult, but they lie extremely well for the hand, and are very satisfying, especially the first: "Barcarolle". And the "Scherzo" is almost deliciously 'barbaric'.

Very colorful and--I think--extremely individual composer. I too, wish he had lived longer, if only to hear in which direction he was actually headed.

Tom
 

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Excellent composer who unfortunately died young.

Just began working on the Barcarolle from his Fantasy Pieces. For some reason, the last few days I've wanted to do nothing but work on it, but it kind of revived my pre-recital hand problem of a few weeks ago. Fantastic piece.

Also love the piano sonata (especially the second movement) and the Pleasure Dome of Kubla Kahn.

I find him very eclectic, although some of his works are "impressionist" like the White Peacock, I think it impossible to describe his output as a whole as such. To me it often casts a glance towards the German romanticism of Griffes' teacher Humperdinck, or Russians like Rimsky-Korsakov, especially when he's at his most "exotic". His harmonies and uses of exotic scales are strongly influenced by Debussy and other impressionists, though Griffes is not afraid of mild bitonality. Later works like the piano sonata strike me as more neoclassical, with some of the rhythmic bite and thinner textures of Stravinsky.
JSK:
Keep us posted on your progress with the Barcarolle, will you? I think it's an extraordinarily well-laid out work for the piano. And don't overlook the other two, especially the Scherzo. His piano music, despite the technical difficulties, really lies beautifully for the hand, at least IMO.

And you're right--once you start work on Griffes, it's VERY hard to give up. It's almost hypnotic the way the music works itself into you.

Tom :)
 
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