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Happy Birthday Percy Grainger!

2754 Views 8 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Rackety Sax
I stole this from another board... Not saxophone specific, but a very important composer!

George Percy Grainger - July 8, 1882/Febuary 20, 1961 aka Percy Aldridge Grainger
I do feel duty bound to post additional Grainger information. Here are a few list of books, CDs and links that you might find of interest. If you Google "Percy Grainger" you will find about 231,000 sites. Here are some of the more important ones.

The International Percy Grainger Society: (USA)
The Percy Grainger Society: (London)
The Grainger Museum: (Melbourne)

Another site you will not want to miss is:

Recommended Books:
Balough, Teresa - "A Musical Genius from Australia", Music Monograph 4, Univ. of Western Australia
Bird, John - "Percy Grainger", new addition via Oxford Press
Dreyfus, Kay - "The Farthest North of Humanness" (Letters of PAG 1901-14), MMB Music Inc.
Fennell, Frederick - "The Instrumentalist" (3-part essay on Lincolnshire Posy) 1980, May, Sept. and Oct.
Gillies, Malcolm - "The All-Round Man - Selected Letters of PAG 1914-61" Oxford Press
Lewis, Thomas(Ed.) - "A Source Guide to the Music of Percy Grainger" Pro/AM Music
Osmon, Leroy - "His Name was Percy Grainger" RBC Publications (San Antonio, Texas)

Recommended Listening:
Mark Custom Recordings - "The Music of Percy Grainger" Vol. 1 - 4 Univ. of Houston (Eddie Green and Tom Bennett Cond.)
GIA Pub. Composer's Collection - "Percy Aldridge Grainger" North Texas Wind Sym. Eugene Corporon Cond.
Hyperion - "Grainger: Jungle Book"
Move - Percy Grainger "Tuneful Percussion" performed by Woof!
Chandos - "The Grainger Editions" Vol. 1 - 19 (Vol. 5 & 9 are great!)
Helicon Classics - "Grainger & Bolcom: Music for Two Pianos"
London - "Salute to Percy Grainger", Benjamin Britten and the Eng. Chamber Orchestra (Britten's last recording)
Philips - "Danny Boy", Songs & Dancing Ballads by Percy Grainger

After hearing Colonial Song, the great English conductor Sir Thomas Beechem told Percy, "Perks, you have managed to compose the worst composition of the 20th Century."

"I don't especially value 'originality' in art, as I consider the communal development of folksongs is no whit inferior to the original achievement of a great outstanding 'original' genius. It is the universal that pulls me in all matters and I am more thrilled by these points that all people have in common than in the special achievements and specialness of individuals". Percy Grainger
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One of the best parts about playing Grainger is the instructions in English: crescendo poco a poco becomes "Louden bit by bit"
ff becomes "well to the fore"

Plus, the guy was fond of saxophones! What's not to like?
From what I remember Percy almost included a part written for bass sax...

What else could you ask for?

(Thanks for the links)
Grainger is finally being recognised for his innovations - he wrote his first aleotoric piece (Random Round) in 1912, which just happens to be the year of John Cage's birth. His "Childrens' March" was written not long after, and I think (not absolutely sure) the band version was the first score he wrote using saxophones.
I wrote a research paper on Percy Grainger last fall. He is an extremely interesting character. A few interesting tidbits...

One of the best parts about playing Grainger is the instructions in English: crescendo poco a poco becomes "Louden bit by bit"
ff becomes "well to the fore"
There is actually a reason he did this. From wikipedia:

...he was a cheerful believer in the racial superiority of blond-haired and blue-eyed northern Europeans. This led to attempts, in his letters and musical manuscripts, to use only what he called "blue-eyed English" (akin to Anglish and the 'Pure English' of Dorset poet William Barnes) which expunged all foreign (i.e. non-Germanic) influences. Thus many Grainger scores use words such as "louden," "soften," and "holding back" in place of standard Italian musical terms such as "crescendo," "diminuendo," and "meno mosso."
If memory serves, he addresses the use of english directions in the notes of his score for "Lincolnshire Posy."

He was also the first to respond to Frederick Fennell letters requesting more literature to be written for wind ensemble.

Personally, I think "Horkstow Grange" is one of the most beautiful pieces written for wind ensemble. I must've listened to it 40+ times when I was doing my research.

His saxophone parts are downright fun to play also!
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He's become so famous that us Aussies have claimed him back as "one of us":D
I'll celebrate by blowing the dust off Blithe Bells.
tensopbass said:
He's become so famous that us Aussies have claimed him back as "one of us":D
I'll celebrate by blowing the dust off Blithe Bells.
He apparently always thought of himelf as Australian, despite having taken US citizenship. That's one of the reasons he endowed the fascinating Grainger Museum at the University of Melbourne. A few years ago one my friends talked his way out the back, where they have (among other things) his collection of whips. He did want his skeleton on display, but the authorities wouldn't come at that!
All are welcome to read my article of some years ago called "Percy Grainger and the Intimate Saxophone" which details his personal feelings about the saxophone and how extensively he used it in his works. It also includes a quote of his hilarious "blue-eyed English" discussing his love for the saxophone and his summer of making saxophone arrangements.
And don't forget some of the original works/versions he wrote for saxophone, including "Lisbon" for SAATB, and Molly on the Shore for alto sax and piano. A number of saxophone ensembles came out of his elastic scorings, including two particularly succsessful ones of "The Immovable Do" and "Annunciation Carol". His wonderful arrangement of a Bach Chorale and Fugue, which has recently been published, is also being recorded.

Paul Cohen
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