| To the casual observer, the composer Grainger is synonymous with arrangements. For almost all his life and beyond, Grainger was known for only a handful of popular pieces described by musical dictionaries as ‘light’ music. Yet Grainger’s arrangements are far more than pieces transferred from one medium to another. Most of Grainger’s scores show the dates of the root version of a particular work and successive dates when his arrangements of versions appeared. This practice seems to have begun in the early part of the twentieth century when asked by his original publishers Schott & Co. to make available piano versions of popular pieces like Handel in the Strand.
Until that time Grainger had already made several versions of some of his orchestral music and it was not until his flitting to America that he conceived the idea of ‘elastic scoring’: a work having an almost limitless number of performable versions.
Grainger took the art of arranging to new heights, and a rich reward awaits those prepared to listen to an umpteenth arrangement of, for example, ‘Colonial Song’, as subtle changes of scoring appear from version to version. Grainger’s originality shines through the various incarnations of his works, and through his wonderful sense of instrumental colouring.
Grainger in his folk-song arrangements is hard to surpass. Benjamin Britten exclaimed, ‘in the art of folk-song arrangements Grainger is my master!’.