The Three Ravens
is based on an old English song and was in the first place composed to a modernized version of the original text by Sir Harold Boulton in July 1902. Grainger later revised the setting in 1949, reverting to the original text which had been unknown to him in 1902. The work is arranged for baritone solo, mixed chorus and instrumental accompaniment and the choral writing gives us an early example of Grainger’s interest in sliding intervals. The atmosphere captured in this music, depicting a slain knight mouldering in the field with the ravens discussing how they might take breakfast, is at once both sinister and moving. Grainger’s original scoring is for either five clarinets, flute and four clarinets, other woodwinds, or harmonium (reed-organ or pipe-organ).
from notes by Barry Peter Ould © 1996