Grainger on Music

Grainger on Music

Grainger on Music

Grainger on Music


Cyril Scott once described Percy Grainger as a `lovable eccentric'. The Australian-American pianist, composer, ethnologist, and aspiring `all-round man' was, however, more eccentric to his own age than to ours. His views on the environment, food, the body, participatory democracy, and sex all anticipated by several decades views more typical of the mid-late twentieth century. Prolific as a composer, performer, and recording artist, Grainger was an indefatigable writer. This selection of forty-six essays about the production, promotion, and propagation of music is drawn from his over 150 public writings. Written between the turn of the century and the early 1950s, these essays reveal Grainger's youthful compositional plans, his ideas about piano technique, and his enduring high regard for the music of Edvard Grieg, Frederick Delius, and `Frankfurt Group' colleagues Cyril Scott, Roger Quilter, and Henry Balfour Gardiner. Grainger on Music also pursues his evolving thoughts about Nordic music, `Free Music', instrumental usage, and his occasional suggestions for musical development in Australia and the United States.


Editor's Note. -- It is fortunate that the Etude may present the second section of Mr. Percy Grainger's notable interview upon Modernism in Piano Playing in the present issue. Mr. Grainger is an intimate friend of many Scandinavian artists. Grieg was a kind of musical foster-father to him. He has toured repeatedly with great success in Scandinavian countries.

It seems to me that we live in an age in which the piano has again come very much into its own. The developments of the last fifteen or twenty years seem to me enormous. Again let me say that this is a period in which the piano is not merely a practical and serviceable medium for expressing noble and touching musical feelings of a nature not especially limited or adapted to the piano or any other particular instrument, but in which the very soul and body of the instrument, all its most individual peculiarities and idiosyncrasies, are especially catered for, and in which the technical aspects of the piano are developed to a degree and in a manner so that they are able to play an emotional and highly soulful rôle.

An Inspired Period

Composers such as Scarlatti, Couperin, Chopin and Liszt at once leap to one's mind as creative geniuses of this particularly high pianistic type. They have not only written great music for the piano, such as the giants like Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, etc., but the greatness of their achievement lies in the peculiarly pianistic note of their style and of the elements contained in their works that prove unusually stimulating and developing to pianists playing their works. Though personally I feel perhaps the deepest attraction in the works of men such as Bach, Wagner, Grieg and Frederick Delius, in whose creations the inventive germ and the inner musical idea and emotion come always first, and the instrument or instruments

Source: Etude, 33/10 (Oct. 1915), 709-10.

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