Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Sunday, July 8

Percy Grainger, wildman

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1882, George Percy Aldridge Grainger was born in Brighton, Victoria. Although born in Australia, Grainger died in America, at the age of 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 entitled “Lincolnshire Posy,” a work that Grainger once described as a “bunch of musical wildflowers.”

And with some justification, one could describe Grainger himself as a “wildman.” At the age of 29, he wrote to his mother: “I hardly ever think of ought else but sex, race, athletics, speech and art.” He claimed to reject all prudery when it came to sex, pursuing an equally vigorous physical and artistic life into old age, and idolized Nordic languages and culture.

In 1928 Grainger married a Swedish woman he dubbed his “Nordic Princess,” one Ella Ström, at a very public ceremony at the Hollywood Bowl concert featuring the première of one of his own orchestral pieces entitled (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, cond. Chandos 9721

Additional Information

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