On this day in classical music: American composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes was born in Elmira, New York in 1884. Griffes spent four years studying composition with Engelbert Humperdinck in Berlin before returning to the United States in 1907. His music shows strong impressionist influences. His musical output includes works for piano, voice and chamber ensembles. He’s best known for “The White Peacock,” originally composed for piano but later orchestrated, the tone poem “The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan” and the still popular “Poem for Flute and Orchestra.” Listen to Amy Porter perform the flute/piano version of Griffes’ “Poem.” David Gilliland is the pianist. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeghC40leAU
On this day in the musical theatre: A revival of “Oklahoma!” opened in London’s West End in 1980. Oscar Hammerstein’s son William directed the revival which ran for a year and earned Olivier nominations for John Diedrich (cast as Curly) and Alfred Molina (as Jud Fry). The London revival was recorded by TER records.
Musical musings: Griffes composed the Poem for Flute and Orchestra in 1916 for Georges Barrere, who was principal flutist of the New York Symphony Orchestra. The performance of the Poem on 16 November (a couple of weeks before the Pleasure-Dome premiere) was of great importance to Griffes because he had here, for the first time, penetrated the New York musical “establishment” — a major New York orchestra (the NYSO), a major New York conductor (Walter Damrosch), and a virtuoso flutist (Barrere). The Poem is lightly scored for solo flute, strings, two horns, harp and percussion, with the strings serving as the backbone of the small orchestra. Except in the dance section, there is, I believe, a certain poignant sadness in the Poem, a quality often found in Griffes’ music. Over the years, the Poem has remained popular with flutists, in the concert hall, on recordings, and in the teaching studio. – Donna K. Anderson