Aspects Of Grainger


01The Great Original20110926

Mention the musician Percy Grainger and many people will still only associate him with his greatest commercial success, "Country Gardens", leading to Grainger all too frequently being dismissed as a composer of light music.

This series of the "The Essay" marks the fiftieth anniversary of Grainger's death with programmes devoted to the Australian-born composer and pianist, his music and his sometimes eccentric personal life.

British composer Julian Anderson has long been a devotee of Grainger's music and in this programme he considers Grainger's importance and originality, his influences, including his fascination with many different types of music, both old and new and traditional musics from around the world as well as folk and jazz.

Grainger had such a diversity of creative interests, many of which influenced or were reflected in his own music, that he is almost impossible to pigeon-hole.

Like Charles Ives and Edgard Varese, Grainger was an independent spirit and one of the most stylistically unpredictable composers in history.

Julian Anderson feels that the time has come for a major reassessment of Grainger's importance.

Julian Anderson on the importance of Australian-born composer and pianist Percy Grainger.

02Grainger And Folksong2011092720120813

Meurig Bowen explores Percy Grainger's passion for folksong and how it influenced him.

In the early years of the twentieth century composer Percy Grainger travelled around Britain with a phonograph recording rural folksingers. As a musical anthropologist Grainger was looking for authentically rustic, timeless melodic source material. Writer and Cheltenham Music Festival director, Meurig Bowen explores Grainger's passion for folksong, how he used it, how it influenced his music and how it compared with other composers' incorporation of folksongs. Might there have been something inherently condescending and exploitative about folksong collecting or was it a fear that, at a time of increasing industrialisation and migration off the land that if these tunes were not captured they could be lost forever?

The programme includes a fascinating recording, made by Grainger himself in 1906, of a folksong sung by a farm bailiff followed by what the song subsequently became in one of Graingers most poignant arrangements.

Produced by Jeremy Hayes for Potton Hall Productions

First broadcast in September 2011.

03Grainger The Man2011092820120815

Penelope Thwaites explores the sometimes eccentric personal life of Percy Grainger.

"If you want to understand the music of Percy Grainger, you need to understand the man - where he came from and what he was aiming at". Pianist and writer, Penelope Thwaites' recent research into composer Grainger's family and background has resulted in discoveries which shed intriguing new light on a man whom, Thwaites maintains is one of the least understood figures in musical history.

She outlines his life, beginning in Australia and ending in America, a piano virtuoso mentioned in the company of Rachmaninov and Horowitz, a composer whose music reflected his own attitude to life: constantly setting himself new challenges. Grainger's mother played a pivotal role in his life and Thwaites deplores the subsequent vilification of her by many commentators. She touches on Grainger's private life and sado-masochistic practices and his establishment of a Grainger Museum in Melbourne into which he voluntarily put everything about his life.

Produced by Jeremy Hayes for Potton Hall Productions

First broadcast in September 2011.

04Grainger And The Voice20110929

Baritone Stephen Varcoe has long been a champion of the vocal music of Australian-born composer Percy Grainger, having performed and recorded much of it.

He talks about how he discovered this music, beginning with Grainger's folksong settings and choral works.

Varcoe also makes a case for a reappraisal of Grainger's solo songs, which have been unjustly neglected - largely due to Grainger setting texts by writers who are now deeply unfashionable, particularly Rudyard Kipling - and makes suggestions for interpreting them based on his own performance experiences.

Produced by Jeremy Hayes for Potton Hall Productions.

Stephen Varcoe discusses Percy Grainger's vocal music and in particular his songs.

05 LASTGrainger The Pianist2011093020120816

Percy Grainger was one of the most famous pianists of his time, being compared to Rachmaninov and Horowitz. Grieg proclaimed that he'd had to wait until he was in his sixties to hear his own music played with such understanding and brilliance and he and Grainger went on to collaborate on the performance and an edition of Grieg's Piano Concerto. Pianist Lucy Parham enthuses about Grainger's recordings on 78s which are a revelation, as two short extracts demonstrate. His repertoire was characteristically idiosyncratic, as were his views on certain composers. He as known as "the Golden Pianist", for his good looks as well as his seemingly faultless technique and matchless sound.

Produced by Jeremy Hayes for Potton Hall Productions

First broadcast in September 2011.

Lucy Parham on the piano playing of Grainger, including his unusual performance habits.