PERCY GRAINGER By By John Bird
Oxford University Press 1999 (Third Edition). Hardback 376 pages ISBN
For a full review of this book, located on Classical Music on the Web,
here. I would add for film music and film enthusiasts that Bird tells
us that -
"Between April 17 and 23, 1921, Percy Grainger became the first pianist of
international fame to play at a moving picture theatre. This took place at
the Capitol Theatre (New York), which at that time was the largest cinema
in the world, capable of seating almost five and a half thousand people.
Grainger played to capacity audiences four times a day and the highlight
of each performance was a rendering of the first movement of Tchaikovsky's
First Piano Concerto which he played alternately with the Duo-Art piano roll
being fed through the Steinway he was using."
We also learn that "through the late twenties and early thirties onwards,
his diaries show that he had become an ardent film-goer;. His favourite film
stars seem to have been: Marlene Dietrich, Ginger Rogers and Ingrid Bergman.
Amongst his students were Bernard Herrmann and Morton Gould.
"They treated him as a friend rather than as a representative of the stuffy
academic establishment. Grainger did not place orchestration examples before
them; instead he allowed them to choose their own pieces and gave them advice
where and when needed. Herrmann, for instance, decided to orchestrate MacDowell's
'Celtic' Sonata and felt the need to employ the sonorities of a tenor tuba.
Grainger knew little of this unusual instrument, so together they familiarised
themselves with it and found suitable moments for its inclusion."
By the way, a film based on episodes in the ligfe of Percy Grainger was made
in the late 1990s by an Australian production company. Stills from the production
were shown to delegates at the 1998 Percy Grainger weekend but as far as
I can gather there are no plans to screen this film either here in the Uk
either in theatres or on television.