86. Ferde Grofe [365 Composers for 2013]


27th March – Ferde Grofe

Grofe (27th March 1892 – 3rd April 1972) is our composer for 27th March, to mark the day of his birth.
Nationality: American
Lifespan: 80 years
Genre: 20th century
Education: Leipzig Conservatoire
Fame Ranking: 5

Grofe came from a family whose musical talents spanned back at least four generations, including both of his parents. His father, however, died when Grofe was a small boy, after which his mother took him off to Leipzig to study the piano, the viola and composition. He had a thorough grounding in music and learnt to play several instruments to a high standard, but ultimately left school young, aged just 14, and took up various non-musical jobs to make ends meet. These included spells as a milkman, a truck driver and an iron-factory worker. At the same time, he continued his musical studies and also began composing. He also worked as a pianist in a bar and took part in various amateur bands.

Eventually his musical activities took over the more mundane jobs he was doing, and he began to play jazz piano for a well-known band, the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. He also began making orchestral arrangements. It was this step which fast-tracked his musical career. Grofe made an orchestral arrangement of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, which had been originally scored for two pianos. Grofe’s arrangement was highly acclaimed, and is still the most often heard arrangement of the piece heard today.

Although Grofe gained his fame by arranging works written by other composers, he was also a composer in his own right. He wrote several American themed suites, such as the Mississippi Suite and the Grand Canyon Suite, programmatic pieces which depict a journey. Both were premiered by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Grofe also wrote quite a lot of film music, mostly in the jazz style.

Here is the first part of another of Grofe’s American Suites – the Hudson River Suite:


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