Grainger's Collection of Music - Grainger Museum

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Grainger's Collection of Music by Other Composers

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An insight into Grainger's personal collection of piano, orchestral, vocal, choral and band music by his contemporaries. Although many copies are complimentary review copies sent to Grainger by music publishers, there are other, quite rare items to be found.

The scope and general character of Percy Grainger's collection of music by other composers may be understood by reference to two things: firstly, his aims for the Grainger Museum and its collections; secondly, the circumstances of his career as a professional musician (performer, conductor and concert-giver).

In establishing the Music Museum and Grainger Museum, as it was originally called, Grainger wished to emphasise the creative rather than the executant side of music, to throw light upon the processes of musical composition as distinct from performances. Within this general aim, a geographical frame is provided by his particular championship of the so-called 'Nordic Group' of composers: British, Irish, American, Australian, Scandinavian. The chronological frame is roughly the period covered by his own lifetime: 1882-1961. The preference is for unknown or less-known compositions.

In pursuit of this end, Grainger asked composer friends to donate music manuscripts and published editions of their own works to the Museum. Cyril Scott, Balfour Gardiner, Roger Quilter and Herman Sandby, Grainger's fellow-students at Frankfurt, were the chief contributors. But in the course of a long and varied musical career, Grainger attracted numerous gifts of published and manuscript music from composers whom he met as he travelled about in the U.S.A., Europe and Australia. Some of these composers are still remembered today; others are now forgotten. The inscriptions bear witness to the range of his acquaintance and activities, the variety of motives for the gifts. Finally, there is that music which Grainger collected because he admired it, was interested in it or wished to promote it. In this latter category one might also include his assemblage of largely ephemeral popular vocal, piano and band music of the early twentieth century.

It was also part of Grainger's intention that the Museum's collections should demonstrate the way in which the creative personality is moulded by what he called 'culturizing influences': propitious circumstances or fructifying personalities. Accordingly, the private collections of friends and relations, including his father John Grainger and his manager Antonia Sawyer, find their place in his collection. He believed that these collections reflected the musical tastes of the donors and that, as he was influenced by friends and relations, their tastes must have some bearing on the formation of his own musical preferences.

Grainger incorporated the above material into his personal collection of piano, orchestral, vocal, choral and band music; a diverse collection ranging from standard repertoire items which he annotated and used for performing and teaching purposes through to the complimentary review copies with which he was deluged by music publishers.

Grainger regarded his collection of music by other composers as one of the most significant collections in the Grainger Museum. It is, as he himself has written of the whole Museum, the product of one man's taste and criticism - his own - and is limited accordingly. Nonetheless, by virtue of the composers represented, it provides a fascinating field of study not merely of the creative achievements of a particular group of composers, as Grainger intended, but also of the changing character of music making and changes in private and public taste.

by Phil Clifford

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Date created:
25 March 2002
Last modified:
19 May 2011 13:53:06
Authoriser:
Director, Grainger Museum
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Grainger Museum
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