Geoffrey Simon / Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Music of Percy Aldridge Grainger

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The Melbourne Symphony was the first to record The Warriors in 1980, back in an era where Percy Grainger's innovative spirit as a composer was more speculated about than known. The Warriors in itself is like shock therapy in terms of indoctrination into Grainger's pioneering experimentalism; composed at the same time Charles Ives was also exploring such resources, The Warriors is an "imaginary ballet" scored for multiple instrumental groups, three pianos, and an extensive battery of both pitched and non-pitched percussion. There is a similar high-end audio recording of The Warriors by John Eliot Gardiner on Deutsche Grammophon, which pairs it with Gustav Holst's The Planets; Geoffrey Simon's program is all Grainger, containing several of the best orchestral works he left us. Hill Song No. 1, Grainger's own personal favorite among his compositions, is heard in its final, 1923 incarnation, and this was its first recording. Hill Song No. 1 is an amorphous, constantly shifting mass of folk-derived melody that expands and contracts like some sort of metaphysical squeezebox, and there was certainly nothing else like it on earth when Grainger first put it down on paper in 1901. The orchestral version of Hill Song No. 2, much shorter and more conventional in form, is likewise included for good measure.

Among the others, Grainger's Irish Tune from County Derry is heard in a 1920 orchestration that's a tad more bitter than the familiar one dished up for Stokowski in the late 1940s. The Danish Folk Music Suite (1928), Peter Sculthorpe's arrangement of Beautiful Fresh Flower (1935) and Grainger's gorgeous setting of Colleen Dhas (1904) fill out the program. This disc, originally made for ABC Classics in Australia in 1989, was reissued in the SACD format on Simon's label Cala in 2007.

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