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Classical Composers A-Z: Percy Grainger

Peter Wintersgill outlines the life of the Australian composer Percy Grainger - a sado-masochist and a keep-fit enthusiast, a very odd character.

8th July, 1882, in Victoria, Australia

John, architect, alcoholic, syphilitic

Rose, caught syphilis from her husband after Percy’s birth. Rumour of incest with Percy, committed suicide.

Child prodigy, piano lessons from mother.

Studied in Melbourne, later in Frankfurt, then with Busoni in Berlin. Was fine pianist like John Hamilton, whom he admired.

Adult Life
Made friends with Grieg, who invited him to Norway to study his piano concerto, which became his speciality. Married Ella Strom, a Swedish artist, in 1928. Collected and edited English folk songs, e.g. Brigg Fair, of which Delius made an orchestral arrangement. The two remained close friends.

He settled in USA in 1914 and stayed there. He made arrangements of more folk songs, e.g. Shepherds Hey (1922), Londonderry Air (1927), Handel in the Strand, Ye Banks and Braes and Country Garden (1930).

He was a very odd character, a sado-masochist and a keep-fit enthusiast.

He died 20th February, 1961, in New York aged 78 from cancer.


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