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Percy Grainger

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Percy Aldridge Grainger (8 July 1882 – 20 February 1961) was an Australian-born pianist, composer, and champion of the saxophone and the Concert band. He was born in Brighton, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. His father was an architect who emigrated from London, England, and his mother, Rose, was the daughter of hoteliers from Adelaide, South Australia, also of English immigrant stock. His father was an alcoholic. When Grainger was aged 11, his parents separated after his mother contracted syphilis from his father, who then returned to London. Grainger’s mother was domineering and possessive, although cultured; she recognised his musical abilities, and took him to Europe in 1895 to study at Dr. Hoch’s conservatory in Frankfurt. There he displayed his talents as a musical experimenter, using irregular and unusual meters.

From 1901 to 1914 Grainger lived in London, where he befriended and was influenced by composer Edvard Grieg. Grieg had a longstanding interest in the folk songs of his native Norway, and Grainger developed a particular interest in recording the folk songs of rural England. During this period, Grainger also wrote and performed piano compositions that presaged the forthcoming popularization of the tone cluster by Leo Ornstein and Henry Cowell.

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