Percy Aldridge Grainger was born in Melbourne on 8th July 1882. He received initial musical training from his mother, making his début as a pianist when only ten, and from Louis Pabst, founder of the Melbourne Academy of Music. He went to Germany in 1895 where he became a pupil of James Kwast at the Hoch’sche Konservatorium in Frankfurt am Main. 1901 saw the beginning of a career in England, followed by tours to South Africa and Australia. In 1906 he encountered Grieg, of whose Piano Concerto he became a leading exponent. Settling in the United States from 1914, he made his début in New York the following year and taught at the Chicago Music College from 1919. In 1928 he married Ella Ström at the Hollywood Bowl, and resided at White Plains, NY from 1940. In common with his older contemporary Busoni (with whom he had studied briefly during the 1890s), he found the career of concert pianist increasingly onerous—all the time pursuing a highly individual fusion between traditional music with his own composing, together with research into his equally idiosyncratic notion of electronic music which absorbed an increasing amount of his time from the mid-1930s onwards. Leaving his manuscripts and effects to the Grainger Museum in Melbourne, he succumbed to cancer in White Plains on 20th February 1961.
Although he composed for a variety of media (and indeed strove to diminish the notion of unalterable instrumentation with his preference for ‘elastic scoring’, the essence of Grainger’s music is perhaps most evident in his output for piano. This was an instrument his mastery of which had led to his early recognition as a virtuoso performer, although later it developed into something of a love/hate relationship.