The central Piano works of Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920) share with Claude Debussy’s music those distinctive harmonies and rhythms that typify impressionism in the early 20th century. In that period of 1910 to about 1916 – the era of Debussy’s “Sunken Cathedral” and “Ondine” – Griffes composed his evocative “The Lake at Evening”, “The White Peacock” and “The Fountain of Acqua Paola.” This highly coloured music, free in form and strongly pictorial, signalled Griffes’ creative break from his student work in Berlin, infusing his music with experimental parallel harmonies, whole-note scales, fluid rhythms, poetic references, and tinges of orientalism typical of the style and its time.
This fine collection contains all of the essential works of Griffes’ central period: Three Tone-Pictures, Op.5 (“The Lake at Evening,” “The Vale of Dreams,” and “The Night Winds”); Fantasy Pieces, Op.6 (“Barcarolle,” “Notturno,” and “Scherzo”); and Roman Sketches, Op. 7 (“The White Peacock,” “Nightfall,” “The Fountain of the Acqua Paola,” and “Clouds”). The volume concludes with Griffes’ Piano Sonata, completed in early 1918, just two years before his premature death. Written at the peak of Griffes’ creative power, it is one of the composer’s most striking works and a complete break from his earlier style – classically structured, and uncompromisingly dissonant.