Percy Grainger

Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882-1961) is one of Australia's best known composers. A brilliant arranger of folk music but also a pioneer in percussion and electronic music, Grainger's Warriors was recently heard in the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Born George Percy Grainger, Grainger was born on 8 July 1882 at Brighton, Victoria. His father, John H. Grainger, was a well-known architect whose designs included the Princes Bridge in Melbourne. Quite precocious at an early age, Percy made his first concert tour when he was twelve. Soon afterwards, he went to Germany with his mother Rose to further his training as a pianist and composer. Between 1901 and 1914, Percy and his mother lived in London where his talents flourished.

In these years he befriended the Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg, whose love of national music inspired Percy to look closely at English folk music. With the aid of a phonograph, Percy collected songs from folk-singers and from these made many famous arrangements from these. His friendships with many Scandinavian and English musical figures (Herman Sandby, Delius, Cyril Scott, Balfour Gardiner) developed during this period.

In 1914, Grainger moved to America, where he lived for the rest of his life. He became an American citizen (although he always described himself as Australian) and during a brief spell in the U.S. Army Bands, he "dished-up" (as he put it) the Country Gardens piece which many people now equate with his name.

After the war, Grainger continued his hectic life of concert tours and lectures, including tours to Australia (during which, in the 1930s, he set up the Grainger Museum). In 1928, he married the Swedish artist, Ella Strom. A somewhat original music thinker for his time, he did much to publicise medieval European music, and the music of other cultures. Towards the end of his life he worked on means for producing Free Music; music not limited by time or pitch intervals. The Free Music machines he created in association with the scientist Burnett Cross may be regarded as the crude forerunners of the modern electronic synthesisers. On 20th February 1961, he died at New York, and is now buried in the family grave at Adelaide, South Australia.

Given his extraordinarily busy and hectic life, it is indeed amazing that Grainger was so prolific a composer; well over 1200 works and arrangements in all.

Percy Grainger is featured on the following titles

Tuneful Percussion

One of International Record Review's "Best Discs of 2000". Nominated for Best Classical CD at the 2001 Aria Awards. This album was performed on authentic instruments including Grainger's own staff bells and steel marimba. Many previously unrecorded works are included.


Compositions by Percy Grainger also appear on

Bon Voyage!

Igor and Olga Piano Duo take the listener on a first-class musical journey, with their debut CD Bon Voyage, featuring inspirational piano duo pieces from around the world.


Organ at the Opera

One of Move's all-time best sellers! Sydney City organist Robert Ampt and Amy Johansen perform a program of popular organ duets on the famous Sydney Opera House organ.



An eminently listenable collection of piano pieces written for four and six hands. An exciting, romantic, all stops out tour-de-force!


Melbourne Sounds Grand

Thomas Heywood plays the Grand Concert Organ at the Melbourne Town Hall. With an enormous range of colour, dynamics and glorious, exciting orchestral sounds, the Grand Concert Organ in Melbourne's Town Hall is a world-class instrument. In the grand concert organ tradition, brilliant organist Thomas Heywood performs a diverse program of popular organ music particularly chosen for this instrument.


I Can Tell The World

This CD features saucy rounds, madrigals and drinking songs performed by one of Australia's best choirs, directed by Douglas Lawrence.



This CD by the Melbourne Brass Esemble features an interesting and varied program by five Australian composers. The playing is dynamic and accurate; the sound is full and the acoustic of the recording is very true to life.


Full Spectrum

This early recording of Australian computer music includes Barry Conyngham's realisation of Percy Grainger's Free Music 1 and 2, as well as pieces by Tristram Cary, Warren Burt and Darius Clynes.


Music for Strings

Composers include Australians George Dreyfus, Percy Grainger, Roger Rooman and Desmond Grixti, with three European composers as a bonus. The Southern Cross Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Gerald Gentry.


Burns and Beyond

This recording Burns and Beyond comprises a selection of songs written for voice and modern piano, and includes a performance of Percy Grainger's Three Scotch Folksongs which use ancient tunes of Scotland as inspiration.


Worlds Apart

'Worlds Apart' features works for piano duet, two and three pianos from both ends of the globe. Includes the first Australian recording of the Bruch 'Concerto for two pianos and orchestra'.



The Team of Pianists present a programme of excellent piano works for solo, duo and two pianos.