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Born in 1884
Inducted in 1999
Charles Tomlinson Griffes created 140 works in his lifetime. He studied piano as a child, first with his sister and then at Elmira College. He traveled to Europe in August, 1903, in hope to become a concert pianist and to that end undertook studies at the Stern Conservatory. Steadily over the next four years he decided to leave the conservatory in order to pursue more rigorous composition studies with Engelbert Humperdinck. In addition, Griffes also continued piano lessons with Gottfried Galston at the conservatory, taught piano himself, gave lessons in music theory to private students, and performed in public as a soloist and accompanist. In Berlin he produced works that reflected his German, Romantic-era environment. In 1907, when Griffes finished his course of study, he returned to the United States. By September of that year he had found a position, as teacher and director of music at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York. In this school for boys he would remain for the rest of his life. From about 1914 onward he saw increasing recognition in the music profession and in the public. His publisher G. Schirmer accepted five new songs, and in 1915, accepted six piano works that would become Griffes’ most famous, the Three Tone Pictures, Op. 5, and the Fantasy Pieces, Op. 6. In 1918, Griffes played the premier performance of his masterful Piano Sonata at the MacDowell Club concert and a year later performed the Pleasure-Dome of Kubla Khan with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The BSO brought to Griffes what he called “the greatest concert honor which can come to a composer in America.” That was Griffes’ last public appearance. After several months of increasing weakness, he died in April, 1920, at the age of 35.
Performer: Nina Perlove (flute), Song Hun Nam (piano)