Cover image for Percy Grainger
Percy Grainger
Bird, John.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xxv, 379 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML410.G75 B6 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This extensively revised edition of John Bird's acclaimed biography of Percy Grainger gives the first circumstantial account of the life and works of one of the strangest figures in twentieth-century music. Behind Grainger's highly original compositional achievements, folksong collecting andglittering career as a virtuoso concert pianist lay a tragic and chaotic personal life--long domination by his mother, unorthodox sexual predilections, an eccentric athleticism, a demonic spiritual drive and wildly inconsistent personal philosophy with Anglo-Saxon obsessions such as his famous`Blue-Eyed English'. A list of published compositions, a current discography of performances by Grainger, and a selection of his seminal writings complete what has already proved to be a standard work. In their Prefatory Note to the first edition, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears wrote: `In hissympathetic and tactful biography John Bird has beautifully balanced the brilliance with the turbulence of this unbalanced genius--we are grateful to him'.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In this updated version of his classic Grainger biography (1st ed., CH, Jun'77), Bird attempts to deal with all aspects of the composer's life and art, even the most potentially controversial and embarrassing ones. Although determined to avoid "analysis" or deconstruction of either the Grainger personality (including highly unorthodox political ideas, racial theories, and sexual practices) or Grainger's music, he does demonstrate that the two are interrelated. In the process, Bird makes a strong case for Grainger as a knowledgeable, consistently radical experimentalist, not the naive, provincial folklorist of myth. The book provides a fascinating view the first half of the 20th century through Grainger's eyes (and ears), particularly with regard to the passionate "nationalistic" struggle to surmount the Germanic domination of concert music. Here Grainger allied himself with Debussy, Delius, Grieg, and many Scandinavian and British figures. Bird also offers delightful glimpses of the great figures with whom Grainger came into contact, from Shaw, H.G. Wells, and John Singer Sargent to Strauss, Beecham, and Vaughan Williams. Thoroughgoing in its coverage of Grainger's last years, including his experiments with electronic sound generation, the book includes a detailed bibliography and discography but (sadly) no musical examples--a regrettable omission. General and academic collections, undergraduate and graduate. E. Schwartz; Bowdoin College

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Prefatory Notes by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears
Appreciaton by Leopold Stokowski
Author's Preface
1 ""Bubbles""
2 Doctors and Dustbin Lids
3 ""Perks"" joins the Frankfurt Gang
4 Saint and Sinner
5 Grettir the Strong Flexes his Muscles
6 ""The years before the war were Hell""
7 The Twisted Genius and the Dinkum Aussie
8 Packed Houses and Zulu Warriors
9 ""I am an Australian, not a Corsican""
10 Unto Brigg Fair
11 The Little Half-Viking
12 ""Poor put-upon Percy""
13 ""Adieu Old World! I would hail a New World""
14 ""Your mad side has ruined us""
15 Beatless Music, Blue-Eyed English, and a Nordic Princess
16 ""The measure of my artistic defeat""
17 ""I shall go back to the joys of my teen-years""
18 ""Your loving but defeated, Percy"" Select Source List
Appendix A Catalogue of Grainger's Published Original Compositions and Arrangements
Appendix B Statements on ""Free Music""
Appendix C Preface to Spoon River, American Folk-Music Setting No. 2
Appendix D Discography: Performances by Grainger
Appendix E Catalogue of Duo-Art Piano Rolls made by Grainger
Appendix F Select Bibliography: Performances of Grainger's Works by Others