To The Fore/Grainger
June 14, 2012
“The title To The Fore comes from Grainger’s colorful ‘Blue-Eyed English’ directions which replace their Italian counterparts in his scores,” writes Dana Perna of the International Percy Grainger Society. His directions such as louden lots, lingeringly, slow down lots, as well as dished up, blend band, and tone wrought certainly gets your attention. He would also on occasion make grand entrances by leaping over his piano when he came on stage. Through his concerts he financed a Grainger house in Melbourne where he offered some of his very personal items, a topic not appropriate for this review.
As a reviewer I’m forever searching for new sounds and Delos has been most gracious to open up their catalog allowing me to explore new material. As I investigate new areas of music I can pass this on to you perhaps opening new doors for you also. Percy Grainger, composer, pianist, folk song collector, and musical inventor certainly qualifies. Born in Australia Percy found his way to America in the early part of the 20th Century; toured as a pianist, taught at New York University and Chicago Musical College, participated in the war effort (pictured on CD booklet with one his favorite instruments a soprano saxophone), invented electronic composition machines in order to produce “free music” characterized by small intervals, “gliding tones” and irregular rhythms. He was one of the first to make use of tuned percussion. He arranged hundreds of folk songs and made use of the masters Faure, Grieg, Bach, and others in his arrangements. Quite a talent!
Country Gardens, his most popular piece is offered as a Grainger arrangement and arranged by Sousa for his marching band. The creative talent of Percy is never more evident than his style filled with whimsical reeds, soulful sax, and harmonious brass which can also be dissonant. The Sousa arrangement is a straight marching band rendition that is pleasant but not creative at all. “The Gum-Suckers March” (colonials sucked the eucalyptus leaves). Not the typical march you’re use to listening to Percy incorporates a busy brass section along with piano in this rather catchy melody. Percy was always looking for unusual combinations and found use for a heckelphone and piano strings struck with a percussion mallet as well as low brass for this clever arrangement of “Children’s March: Over the hills and far away.” “March” and O Mensch, Bewein’ Dein’ Sunde Gross,” compositions of Bach are given the Percy band treatment. It is fun to hear a fugue performed by wind band. “Ye Banks and Braes o’Bonnie Doon” is a Scottish melody and there will be a tear in your eye is you’re from that part of the world. A wonderful euphonium is to be found in a Faure tune “Tuscan Serenade.” “Chorale No. 2” melody comes from the Franck Symphony in D minor and is a fascinating way to hear this music especially if you enjoy the symphony version.
The CD is nicely performed by the Michigan State University Symphonic Band conducted by Keith Brion, who was also involved as a curator and a one person crusade to get some of Grainger’s material published. If you’re looking for something new to explore this recording will fit the bill and also introduce you to Grainger.
1… Molly on the Shore (4:03)
2… Country Gardens (2:14)
3… The Immovable Do (3:46)
4… Colonial Song (5:24)
5… “The Gum-Suckers” March (3:46)
6… Tuscan Serenade (3:23)
7… Chorale No. 2 (13:56)
8… March (1:38)
9… O Mensch, Bewein’ Dein’ Sunde Gross (4:13)
10. Country Gardens arr. Sousa (2:16)
11. Ye Banks and Braes o’Bonnie Doon (3:00)
12. Children’s March: “Over the hills and far away” (7:13)
Total Time is 56:44