Percy Grainger
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1882-07-08
https://musicbrainz.org/artist/9d5a875f-9815-4384-9e4f-cd4ea4f2bc16
Percy Grainger

Biography

Composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, educator, inventor, collector and transcriber of the folk music of many cultures – Percy Aldridge Grainger was born at Brighton, near Melbourne, Australia, on 8 July 1882. His philandering, alcoholic father left home when Percy was ...

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Biography

Composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, educator, inventor, collector and transcriber of the folk music of many cultures – Percy Aldridge Grainger was born at Brighton, near Melbourne, Australia, on 8 July 1882. His philandering, alcoholic father left home when Percy was 8 and his mother, Rose Aldridge, assumed total control of every aspect of her son’s life. Discipline was harsh but the bond of affection between mother and son was overwhelming and all-consuming.

After studying at the Frankfurt Conservatory, Grainger settled in England in 1901 and began his career as a professional pianist. His good looks and striking blond hair made him a popular figure in London society. It was during this period that he first began collecting folk songs and from 1905 he travelled extensively in England and Scandinavia, recording and transcribing over 500 songs.

In 1914, Grainger moved to America, eventually settling in White Plains, NY, and taking US citizenship in 1918. For the rest of his life he continued to tour the world as a performer, earning a considerable fortune and giving much of it away to deserving cases. In 1928, on stage at the Hollywood Bowl, in front of an audience of over 15,000, he married Ella Ström, a Swedish artist, who bore a startling resemblance to his mother.

Grainger was a man of contradictions: a professional concert pianist who hated performing in public; a compassionate, vegetarian pacifist and avid reader of bloodthirsty Nordic sagas; a keep-fit fanatic whose sex-life was dominated by sadomasochistic practices. Above all, he was a radical, a visionary and a fearless experimenter, whose musical reputation was for too long defined by that dread term ‘light music’.

Though Grainger remained essentially a miniaturist (none of his works lasts much over 20 minutes), his vast output is brimming with new ideas. These include a totally new approach to orchestration through flexible (‘elastic’) scoring, experiments with ‘chance’ music that startlingly anticipate 1960s aleatoricism, and a vision of a music freed from the constraints of regular pulse and specific pitch. To achieve this ‘Free Music’, he set about designing and building special machines to play the strange, sliding microtonal music he had in mind. A few tapes of these efforts still exist, but at the time of his death, on 20 February 1961, his dream remained only partly realised.

Profile © John Pickard



Percy Grainger Tracks

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Percy Grainger
To a Nordic Princess (bridal song) vers. piano
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To a Nordic Princess (bridal song) vers. piano
Percy Grainger
Free Music No. 1 for four theremins (1936)
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Free Music No. 1 for four theremins (1936)
Percy Grainger
Free Music #1 for four theremins
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Free Music #1 for four theremins
Percy Grainger
I'm Seventeen Come Sunday
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I'm Seventeen Come Sunday
Trad, Percy Grainger, John Shirley-Quirk, Benjamin Britten, The Ambrosian Singers & English Chamber Orchestra
Shallow Brown
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Shallow Brown
Percy Grainger
Brigg Fair
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Brigg Fair
Percy Grainger
Jutish Medley
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Jutish Medley
Percy Grainger
Father And Daughter
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Father And Daughter
England.Traditional, Wayne Marshall, John Lavender, Rhondda Gillespie, Antony Gray & Percy Grainger
The Keel Row
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The Keel Row
Percy Grainger
Lincolnshire Posy: The Brisk Young Sailor (Who Returned To Wed His True Love)
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Lincolnshire Posy: The Brisk Young Sailor (Who Returned To Wed His True Love)
Percy Grainger
Mock morris vers. for orch/str orch
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Mock morris vers. for orch/str orch
Percy Grainger
Molly on the shore for orchestra "Stokowski version"
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Molly on the shore for orchestra "Stokowski version"
Anonymous, Camerata Chamber Choir, Percy Grainger & Michael Bojesen
O Danny Boy (or Irish tune from County Derry)
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O Danny Boy (or Irish tune from County Derry)
Percy Grainger
In Dahomey - cakewalk smasher for piano
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In Dahomey - cakewalk smasher for piano
Percy Grainger
Handel in the Strand vers. for orchestra
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Handel in the Strand vers. for orchestra
Alfonso Ferrabosco, Joyce Griggs & Percy Grainger
The Four Note Pavan
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The Four Note Pavan
Percy Grainger
Colonial song vers. for orchestra
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Colonial song vers. for orchestra
Percy Grainger
Shepherd's hey vers. for orchestra
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Shepherd's hey vers. for orchestra
Percy Grainger
Molly on the shore vers. for orchestra
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Molly on the shore vers. for orchestra
Percy Grainger
Irish tune from County Derry vers. for orchestra
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Irish tune from County Derry vers. for orchestra
Richard Strauss
(Strauss) Fantasy on final love duet from Der Rosenkavalier for piano
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(Strauss) Fantasy on final love duet from Der Rosenkavalier for piano
Percy Grainger
Shepherd's hey arr. Rascher for saxophone quartet
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Shepherd's hey arr. Rascher for saxophone quartet
Percy Grainger
Walking Tune
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Walking Tune
Percy Grainger
Colonial Song
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Colonial Song
Richard Strauss
The Ramble on the Last Love Duet in Der Rosenkavalier
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The Ramble on the Last Love Duet in Der Rosenkavalier
Percy Grainger
In a nutshell - suite vers. for orchestra: The Gum-suckers' march
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In a nutshell - suite vers. for orchestra: The Gum-suckers' march
Percy Grainger
4 Folk Songs: Come thee unto the hills
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4 Folk Songs: Come thee unto the hills
Percy Grainger
Molly on the shore vers. for orchestra
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Molly on the shore vers. for orchestra
Add music you love and enjoy it
Playlists featuring Percy Grainger
Radio 3 Breakfast: Music Box
Radio 3 Breakfast: Music Box
20 Years of Private Passions
20 Years of Private Passions


Percy Grainger Biography

Composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, educator, inventor, collector and transcriber of the folk music of many cultures – Percy Aldridge Grainger was born at Brighton, near Melbourne, Australia, on 8 July 1882. His philandering, alcoholic father left home when Percy was 8 and his mother, Rose Aldridge, assumed total control of every aspect of her son’s life. Discipline was harsh but the bond of affection between mother and son was overwhelming and all-consuming.

After studying at the Frankfurt Conservatory, Grainger settled in England in 1901 and began his career as a professional pianist. His good looks and striking blond hair made him a popular figure in London society. It was during this period that he first began collecting folk songs and from 1905 he travelled extensively in England and Scandinavia, recording and transcribing over 500 songs.

In 1914, Grainger moved to America, eventually settling in White Plains, NY, and taking US citizenship in 1918. For the rest of his life he continued to tour the world as a performer, earning a considerable fortune and giving much of it away to deserving cases. In 1928, on stage at the Hollywood Bowl, in front of an audience of over 15,000, he married Ella Ström, a Swedish artist, who bore a startling resemblance to his mother.

Grainger was a man of contradictions: a professional concert pianist who hated performing in public; a compassionate, vegetarian pacifist and avid reader of bloodthirsty Nordic sagas; a keep-fit fanatic whose sex-life was dominated by sadomasochistic practices. Above all, he was a radical, a visionary and a fearless experimenter, whose musical reputation was for too long defined by that dread term ‘light music’.

Though Grainger remained essentially a miniaturist (none of his works lasts much over 20 minutes), his vast output is brimming with new ideas. These include a totally new approach to orchestration through flexible (‘elastic’) scoring, experiments with ‘chance’ music that startlingly anticipate 1960s aleatoricism, and a vision of a music freed from the constraints of regular pulse and specific pitch. To achieve this ‘Free Music’, he set about designing and building special machines to play the strange, sliding microtonal music he had in mind. A few tapes of these efforts still exist, but at the time of his death, on 20 February 1961, his dream remained only partly realised.

Profile © John Pickard

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