Percy Grainger 1882-1961
George Percy Grainger was born in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton on 8 July 1882.
After initial keyboard studies with his mother, from 1892 Grainger learnt with Louis Pabst and later Adelaide Burkitt.
Grainger gave his first solo ‘adult’ concert in Frankfurt in December 1900.
In their Preface to John Bird’s biography of Percy Grainger, Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten wrote: ‘To have met Percy Grainger even as an old man is a cherished memory. His warmth, his originality, his charm, were unforgettable, and his genial energy had already become a myth. The masterly folksong arrangements with their acutely beautiful feeling for sound were our first musical introduction, and later the preparation of a record of his music was an exciting and revealing experience. Repeated performances strengthened our respect for his work, and our few meetings confirmed our affection and admiration for the man.’
George Percy Grainger was born in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton on 8 July 1882. His father, John Grainger, a British-born architect, virtually abandoned his family when his son was eight, so it was the boy’s adoring mother, the former Rose Aldridge, who raised him. She also educated him: he had only three months’ formal schooling, when he was about 10. A talented pianist, Rose recognised her son’s precocious talents in music and painting. From 1890 until her death in 1922, she devoted herself to nurturing his genius. She was his intimate companion, sharing his life, his friends, his travels and his interests.
After initial keyboard studies with his mother, from 1892 Grainger learnt with Louis Pabst and later Adelaide Burkitt. His first composition, in 1893, was a birthday gift for his mother. Grainger made his concert debut at the Masonic Hall, Melbourne, on 9 July 1894. He later played in promenade concerts at Melbourne’s Exhibition Building. In 1895, following a benefit concert in the Melbourne Town Hall under the direction of G.W.L. Marshall-Hall, Grainger left with his mother to further his musical studies in Germany, at Dr Hoch’s Conservatorium in Frankfurt-am-Main. Over the next four and a half years he studied piano and composition with several noted teachers, and had lessons in painting and drawing as well. His earliest settings of Kipling poems date from this period.
Grainger gave his first solo ‘adult’ concert in Frankfurt in December 1900 – the start of his long and gruelling concert career. From 1901 to 1914 he lived in London with his mother. In 1902 he toured the provinces with the great soprano Adelina Patti. In 1903 he studied with the legendary pianist Ferruccio Busoni and made the first of many concert tours of his homeland. For this visit J.C. Williamson teamed him with the Australian contralto Ada Crossley (‘the Croajingalong Nightingale’). They made a similar tour in 1908.
Photograph taken by Morse courtesy National Library of Australia pic-an12401036
John Bird: Percy Grainger, Paul Elek, 1976
Eileen Dorum: Percy Grainger – The Man behind the Music, privately published, 1986
Kay Dreyfus: ‘George Percy Grainger’, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 9, Melbourne University Press