PERCY GRAINGER (1882 - 1961)
The Australian pianist and composer Percy Grainger, an eccentric figure, may seem of marginal importance. Nevertheless he wrote a number of works that continue to give considerable pleasure, as do some of the remarkable arrangements that he devised. He became a friend of Grieg and of Delius and took a strong interest in the active collection of folk songs. He gave particular attention to the creation of music not bound by the traditional restraints of form and harmony. In 1918 he became an American citizen.
Grainger’s original instrumental music includes the delightful Handel in the Strand, intended for piano trio, piano quartet or string orchestra, and Mock Morris, for either string sextet or violin and piano, or again in arrangements for string or full orchestra. Harvest Hymn appears in various chamber or orchestral arrangements, while Walking Tune remains in its original wind quintet form. Folk-song arrangements for various groups of instruments, sometimes idiosyncratically described as with elastic scoring, include Early One Morning, Green Bushes, Molly on the Shore, Ye Banks and Braes and Shepherd’s Hey. Some of these were also arranged for large wind ensemble.
Grainger wrote some original songs and choral music as well as solo and choral arrangements of folk songs. These include Irish Tune from County Derry, also arranged for wind band, Brigg Fair for tenor and chorus and The Men of Harlech for double chorus and drums.
Country Gardens, apparently derived from a medieval source, occurs in arrangements by Grainger for up to eight hands. Molly on the Shore is arranged for solo piano or piano duet, with similar versions of Shepherd’s Hey and Spoon River.