In one form or other, most of us are familiar with the music of Percy Grainger; arguably the most internationally successful of all Australian composers – at least until the advent of Peter Sculthorpe.
Grainger was also a dazzling pianist and could make one piano sound like four, so the extra layers of counterpoint and detail, all sparkling and optimistic, sound even more spectacular in these editions.
Apart from attractive pot-boilers such as Handel in the Strand, Country Gardens and Molly on the Shore, the four discs offer us the opportunity to hear music that we are unfamiliar with. New to me are the Wrath of Odin and The Rival Brothers, and some pieces work best in their orchestral and vocal form, such as The Lonely Desert Man.
The Brisk Young Sailor has all the Grainger hallmarks that made him such an entertaining composer: cross rhythms, syncopations and a bright engaging tune. English Waltz is also a marvellous piece and goes with an engaging swing.
Not all are short trifles. Hill Song No 1 is over 16 minutes long, and wanders its convoluted way across the keyboard as if the composer was searching for something. The three pianists play the pants off the music. These excellent recordings were made in London in 1989 and 1991 and the fourth in Melbourne this year. Of particular note are the number of items recorded here for the first time in these arrangements.