Composers Datebook®

Percy Grainger, wildman

Composers Datebook - July 8, 2024


George Percy Aldridge Grainger was born on today’s date in 1882 in Brighton, Victoria. Although he was born in Australia, Grainger died in America at 79, in White Plains, New York, in 1961.

Percy Grainger led a long and remarkable life as composer, concert pianist, and educator. He counted among his friends the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and the British composer Frederic Delius, and Grainger shared their enthusiasm for collecting and transforming folk music themes.

From 1917 to 1919 he served in the U.S. Army, first playing oboe and saxophone, and later as a band instructor. Country Gardens, a piano setting of a Morris dance tune, was completed during Grainger’s Army years, and became his best-known composition after its publication in 1919. His subsequent work with wind bands culminated in a 1937 folksong suite, Lincolnshire Posy, a work Grainger once described as a “bunch of musical wildflowers.”

Grainger idolized Nordic languages and culture and in 1928 Grainger married a Swedish woman, Ella Ström, whom he dubbed his “Nordic Princess,” at a very public ceremony at the Hollywood Bowl concert featuring the premiere of one of his own orchestral pieces titled (what else): To a Nordic Princess.

Music Played in Today's Program

Percy Grainger (1882-1961): Country Gardens; Martin Jones, piano; Nimbus 7703

Percy Grainger (1882-1961): To a Nordic Princess; Danish National Radio Symphony; Richard Hickox, conductor; Chandos 9721

On This Day


  • 1882 - Australian-born American composer and pianist Percy Aldrich Grainger, in Melbourne. He became a U.S. citizen in 1919.

  • 1900 - American composer George Antheil, in Trenton, New Jersey


  • 1839 - Spanish composer Fernando Sor, 61, in Paris


  • 1940 - Randall Thompson: Allelujah at the opening of the Berkshire Music Center in Lenox, Mass.

  • 1942 - Sir Lenox Berkeley: Symphony No. 1 in London, conducted by the composer

  • 1987 - Judith Weir: opera A Night at the Chinese Opera in Cheltenham, England

  • 1988 - Philip Glass: opera The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (after a sci-fi novel by Doris Lessing), by Houston Grand Opera

  • 2000 - John Williams: TreeSong for Violin and Orchestra, at Tanglewood with Gil Shaham and the Boston Symphony, composer conducting


  • 1588 - English composer and lutenist John Dowland receives B. Mus. Degree from Christ Church, Oxford

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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