To mark the fiftieth anniversary of Percy Grainger’s death in 1961, we are re-issuing The Grainger Edition, Volumes 1 – 19, in a nineteen-disc box set, which will be available at a very special price.The box set demonstrates the extraordinary range of Grainger’s compositional styles, including orchestral works, works for wind orchestra and for chorus and orchestra, solo songs, works for chamber ensemble, as well as works for solo piano, here performed by Penelope Thwaites. On Volume 16, Works for Solo Piano 1 (CHAN 9895), Fanfare wrote:
‘Rarely has the precociousness of his [Grainger’s] talent been better demonstrated than on this new disc… the rarities, like the more familiar pieces, are played with unapologetic conviction. Penelope Thwaites paints the music in bold strokes… a major contribution to the Grainger discography.’
Grainger, the Australian-born composer and pianist, was one of music’s most original voices and his compositions, especially his arrangements of folksongs, include some of the world’s most well-loved pieces. He studied piano from an early age and, by the time he reached the age of twenty, had already thought out or formulated the majority of his compositions. The following years saw him feverishly reworking and re-arranging these pieces for different forces; in fact it was Grainger who conceived the idea of ‘elastic’ scoring: a work having an almost limitless number of performable versions, all showing a wonderful sense of instrumental colouring. In his various approaches to a single work, Grainger would explore the possibilities of instrumentation from solo piano to wind band and to full orchestra, harmonic textures varying from simple support of the well-known melody to highly contrapuntal settings involving unusual harmonic progressions.
An enthusiastic participant in the English folksong movement, Grainger collected more than 500 folksongs on which he drew both for his impressive original works and for his imaginative arrangements, ‘Country Gardens’ and ‘Molly on the Shore’ being among the best-known. His involvement with British folksong led Grainger to cherish the voice, which became an essential ingredient in his music, and as an arranger of folksongs he was hard to surpass, Benjamin Britten exclaiming: ‘In the art of folksong arrangements, Grainger is my master!’
Towards the end of his life, Grainger became fascinated with the idea of ‘Free Music’; music not limited by time or pitch intervals. The mechanical devices he created in partnership with the scientist Burnett Cross are today regarded as crude forerunners to the modern electronic synthesiser. Grainger’s huge collection of musical materials, instruments and musical devices were eventually housed in a building in the grounds of the University of Melbourne.
The Grainger Museum, as it is now generally known, is today a veritable treasure trove, invaluable for the exploration of Grainger’s vast compositional output.