Percy Grainger was born on July 8, 1882 in Brighton, Australia. After studying piano in Frankfurt, Germany, Grainger moved to London and began a career as a composer-pianist. In 1915, he moved to the United States of America and became an American citizen in 1918.
Grainger was an eccentric figure who was know to compose pieces that did not conform to conventional form or instrumentation. Some of his best known short pieces include Shepherd's Hey and Handel in the Strand, but he also composed larger pieces such as The Warriors.
Many of Mr. Grainger's works are composed for piano or piano trios and quartets, but as mentioned before, he composed for combinations of instruments that were unusual for the time. Pieces were written for large wind ensembles and double chorus and drums. There exist many arrangements of Grainger's music written for various groupings of instruments, often Percy would write arrangements of his own music. Country Gardens is no exception. It is found in many arrangements ranging from two to eight hands piano, and most commonly heard in the wind ensemble version.
Among his friends, Percy Grainger counted Edvard Grieg as one of the closest. It was through this friendship that Grainger's interest in folk music grew. Much like Vaughan Williams, Grainger traveled around England and transcribed songs from the folk singers he met. Many of his shorter, more well know pieces are derived from this quest to preserve folk music.
Grainger was extremely close to his mother who nutured his talent. She was responsible for findiing him the best teacher in Melbourne, Australia, taking him to Germany to study at the Hoch Conservatorium when he was 13, moving him to London where his love of folk music flourished, and finally bringing him to the USA. Many people attribute Percy's eccentric behavior to his relationship with his mother. After she died in 1922 from suicide, he married a Swedish woman named Ella, but his mother remained a strong influence in his life.
By 1914 Grainger has composed most of his music and set forth revising many of the pieces until the end of the 1940's. At that time he was making a lucrative career as a concert-pianist, which he continued until he died. He spent a time in the 1920's teaching, even becoming the Head of Music at New York University. He stopped teaching in 1933, however, because his eccentricity interfered with his pedagogic theories. One of his theories was that the best music was made by blue-eyed, fair-haired composers.
died in 1961 in White Plains, New York, a suburb of New York City.
His music, however, goes on, and has even made a resurgence of late.
His short pieces are perfect for recording, and audiences at concerts find
them as much fun to listen to as they are for the musicians to play.
There is little doubt that many may not know the name Percy Grainger, but
they will know the music he composed.
Back to Main Page