FERDE GROFÉ (1892 - 1972)
Ferde Grofé was born Ferdinand Rudolph von Grofé, in New York City, moving thereafter, with his musician parents, to Los Angeles. After a period in Germany with his mother, following his father’s death, he left home in 1906, taking on a variety of jobs before eventually joining the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra as a viola player. From 1917 he worked as a pianist and arranger for Paul Whiteman, a period that brought his memorable orchestration of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, with its famous opening for which Grofé was responsible. His subsequent career was as a composer, conductor and teacher, in the first capacity showing an early command of symphonic jazz.
Grofé’s original compositions include the tone-poem Broadway at Night, Metropolis, Blue Fantasy in E flat, Three Shades of Blue and his well-known Grand Canyon Suite of 1931. Among other topographical works are his Death Valley Suite, Hudson River Suite, derived from a story by Washington Irving, Mississippi Suite, Niagara Falls Suite and Hollywood Suite, the last of these originally a ballet based on the tribulations of an understudy.