Bilder Duo Tackles Percy Grainger's Folk-Inspired Piano Works

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Australian-born pianist and composer Percy Grainger was one of the prime eccentrics of music history. His foibles were legendary: backpacking to concerts, sleeping on top of closed grand pianos as an audience entered the hall, and getting married at the Hollywood Bowl before an audience of 20,000. When he went looking for a home in Westchester County in 1921, he bought an old house in White Plains that looked like a backdrop for a Hitchcock film. He hobnobbed with Delius and Grieg, developed "free-music" theories and experimented with the theremin.

Grainger’s colorful life has provided plenty of grist for historians – sketches for a planned autobiography were published in 2006 – but recordings have not always kept pace with scholarship. A new collection of his transcriptions for two pianos and piano four-hands captures a particularly lively slice of his output. The Bilder Duo, a young ensemble consisting of German pianists Clemens Rave and Caroline Weichert, offers a judicious, well-programmed sampling of ten pieces.

As a gifted keyboard virtuoso, Grainger wholeheartedly embraced the Romantic art of transcription. The beloved favorites are all here, including Molly on the Shore, based on a playful Irish reel, and Country Gardens, his most popular work. More stately material also turns up, including Horkstow Grange (The Miser and his Man) from Lincolnshire Posy, which has a majestic and tranquil nature common to British folk music. In a grandiose Fantasy on Porgy and Bess Grainger channels several of Gershwin’s piano works, providing the album with a rousing climax.

Grainger: Folk-Inspired Works for Piano Duet and Duo
The Bilder Duo
Available at Arkivmusic.com

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