In my latest Wall Street Journal “Sightings” column, I pay tribute to Charles Griffes. Here’s an excerpt.
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This year marks the centennial of Charles T. Griffes’ sudden—and no less suddenly brief—ascent to musical stardom. A small-town music teacher at a boys’ prep school in suburban New York, he was catapulted into celebrity when Pierre Monteux and the Boston Symphony gave the world premiere of “The Pleasure-Dome of Kubla Khan,” his first large-scale orchestral piece, inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1797 poem about an opium dream.
Born in 1884, Griffes had labored for years in semi-obscurity, turning out art songs and piano pieces that were modestly popular but didn’t sell well enough for him to quit the day job that he despised. The premiere of “Kubla Khan,” which was greeted with wild enthusiasm in Boston and New York, promised to change that in a single stroke….
Four months later, he was dead, a victim of the worldwide Spanish flu pandemic. He was 35….
* * *Read the whole thing here.
Myra Hess performs Charles Griffes’ “The White Peacock” in 1928:
Barbara Bonney and Malcolm Martineau perform Griffes’ “The Lament of Ian the Proud”: