George Percy Grainger was born on 8 July 1882 at Brighton, Victoria. His father, John H. Grainger, was a well-known architect whose designs included the Princes Bridge in Melbourne. Quite precocious, Percy made his first concert tour when he was twelve. Soon afterwards, he went to Germany with his mother Rose to further his training as a pianist and composer. Between 1901 and 1914, Percy and his mother lived in London where his talents flourished. During this time, Colonial Song and Mock Morris were published.

In these years he befriended the Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg, whose love of national music inspired Percy to look closely at English folk music. With the aid of a phonograph, Percy collected songs from folk-singers and made many famous arrangements from these. His friendships with Scandinavian and English musical figures (Herman Sandby, Delius, Cyril Scott, Balfour Gardiner) developed during this period.

In 1914, Grainger moved to America, where he lived for the rest of his life. He became an American citizen (although he always described himself as Australian) and during a brief spell in the U.S. Army Bands, he "dished-up" (as he put it) Country Gardens, the piece which many people now equate with his name.

After the war, Grainger continued his hectic life of concert tours and lectures, including tours to Australia (during which, in the 1930s, he set up the Grainger Museum). In 1928, he married the Swedish artist, Ella Ström.

An original musical thinker for his time, he did much to publicize medieval European music, and the music of other cultures. Towards the end of his life he worked on means for producing Free Music; music not limited by time or pitch intervals. The Free Music machines he created in association with the scientist Burnett Cross may be regarded as the crude forerunners of the modern electronic synthesizers. On 20th February 1961, he died in New York, and is now buried in the family grave at Adelaide, South Australia.

Given his extraordinarily busy and hectic life, it is indeed amazing that Grainger was so prolific a composer, producing well over 1200 works and arrangements in all. A comprehensive works' list can be found on the Bardic music web site.


Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory | January 22, 2010

News and Press

[Concert Review] Things that go BMOP in the night

If you attended a performance of the Boston Symphony Orchestra last fall, chances are pretty good that you heard one or more of Beethoven’s symphonies. The BSO, widely recognized as one of the world’s most elite orchestras, presented a complete set of these vaunted works throughout October and November and has several additional performances scattered throughout their concert season. My hometown orchestra, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, dedicated this, their 116th season, to the theme “Beethoven and Beyond.” Their concerts are centered around a complete series of the nine symphonies.

Brandeis Hoot Full review
[Concert Review] Classical Music Review: BMOP's Band in Boston

Time was when Boston had a City Censor, and books and plays drummed up trade by having them “Banned in Boston.” The Boston Modern Orchestra Project, headed by conductor Gil Rose, came up with the deliciously punning title “Band in Boston” for its Jordan Hall concert on January 22. Indeed there was not a bowed string instrument to be seen on stage all evening – nothing but 36 wind players, plus five percussionists, a harpist, and three pianists.

The Arts Fuse Full review
[Concert Review] BMOP: Band in Boston

The BMOP continued its season last Friday with their Band in Boston concert, celebrating 20th and 21st century music for wind ensemble with two repertoire mainstays by Stravinsky and Percy Grainger, as well as some newer compositions by Harold Meltzer, Wayne Peterson, and Joseph Schwantner. Robert Kirzinger’s excellent program notes make the case that band music has lost some of its historical prestige because the bands (military, university, etc.) have themselves lost their prestige, despite their ability, popularity, and cultural and social significance.

Boston lowbrow Full review
[Concert Review] BMOP does band

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project is known for exploring a wide variety of 20th- and 21st-century instrumental music. On January 22nd at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, under the baton of music director Gil Rose, the group forayed into wind ensemble territory with a program of varying styles and with mixed effectiveness.

The Boston Musical Intelligencer Full review