Charles Tomlinson Griffes – Poem For Flute And Orchestra – Julius Baker, Flute – Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Saidenberg – Decca (U.S.) – DL-4013.
Music of Charles Tomlinson Griffes this weekend, as performed by the legendary American Flautist Julius Baker, accompanied by Daniel Saidenberg leading an anonymous Chamber Orchestra in this 1952 recording for Decca Records (U.S.).
Poem for Flute and Orchestra by Griffes – Griffes had early piano lessons with his sister Katherine and later studied piano with Mary Selena Broughton, who taught at Elmira College. Mary had a profound impact on his personal and musical development. After early studies on piano and organ in his home town, on recommendation of Broughton, he went to Berlin to study with pianist Ernst Jedliczka and Gottfried Galston at the Stern Conservatory. Although recognized as a performer, Griffes grew more interested in composition. Despite being advised against it by Broughton, he left the conservatory and was briefly taught by composer Engelbert Humperdinck. During his time in Berlin he composed several German songs and the Symphonische Phantasie for orchestra.
On returning to the U.S. in 1907, he became director of music studies at the Hackley School for boys in Tarrytown, New York, a post which he held until his early death thirteen years later. His post has been described as “grim and unrewarding”, though it gave him financial stability. He continued to compose at Hackley in his free time and promoted his music during the summer.
Griffes’ initial works are influenced by German Romanticism, but after he relinquished the German style, his later works make him the most famous American representative of musical Impressionism. He was fascinated by the exotic, mysterious sound of the French Impressionists, and was compositionally much influenced by them while he was in Europe. He also studied the work of contemporary Russian composers (for example Scriabin), whose influence is also apparent in his work, for example in his use of synthetic scales.
His most famous works are the White Peacock, for piano (1915, orchestrated in 1919); his Piano Sonata (1917–18, revised 1919); a tone poem, The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan, after the fragment by Coleridge (1912, revised in 1916), and Poem for Flute and Orchestra (1918). He also wrote numerous programmatic pieces for piano, chamber ensembles, and for voice. The amount and quality of his music is impressive considering his short life and his full-time teaching job, and much of his music is still performed. His unpublished Sho-jo (1917), a one-act pantomimic drama based on Japanese themes, is one of the earliest works by an American composer to show direct inspiration from the music of Japan. Griffes died of influenza in New York City during the worldwide pandemic of 1918 at the age of 35 and is buried in Bloomfield Cemetery in Bloomfield, New Jersey.
Julius Baker was well known as a teacher and served as a faculty member at the Juilliard School, Curtis Institute of Music, and Carnegie Mellon University. He made many recordings with conductors such as Bruno Walter and Leonard Bernstein, and played second flute with the Cleveland Orchestra from 1937-1941.
Baker emerged as principal flautist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner from 1941–1943, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Rafael Kubelik from 1951–1953, and subsequently with the New York Philharmonic for 18 years, beginning in 1965 under such legendary conductors as: Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez and Zubin Mehta. During that time he also played in the Columbia Symphony Orchestra.
Baker loved chamber music and was one of the founding members of the Bach Aria Group, with whom he played from 1946 to 1964. Baker also performed on several notable film scores, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Lovesick. He appeared opposite violinist Oscar Shumsky in filming Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, with pianist Glenn Gould on harpsipiano. Baker also collaborated with Glenn Gould, the violinist Rafael Druian and members of the New York Philharmonic in a recording of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenberg Concerto No. 4 in G Major, BWV 1049.
In addition to film, Baker was also featured on network television in such noted programs as: The Dick Cavett Show in 1971 and the Public Broadcasting Service series Great Performances in 1995. Julius Baker died in 2003, aged 87.
Hit the Play button and enjoy.