Percy Grainger – The complete 78-rpm solo recordings
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For the following beautiful air I have to express my very grateful acknowledgement to Miss J. Ross, of New Town, Limavady, in the County of Londonderry—a lady who has made a large collection of the popular unpublished melodies of the county, which she has very kindly placed at my disposal, and which has added very considerably to the stock of tunes which I had previously acquired from that still very Irish county. I say still very Irish, for though it has been planted for more than two centuries by English and Scottish settlers, the old Irish race still forms the great majority of its peasant inhabitants; and there are few, if any counties in which, with less foreign admixture, the ancient melodies of the country have been so extensively preserved. The name of the tune unfortunately was not ascertained by Miss Ross, who sent it to me with the simple remark that it was ‘very old’, in the correctness of which statement I have no hesitation in expressing my perfect concurrence.
In 1902 Grainger set it for an a cappella mixed chorus. The solo piano version dates from 1911, but he arranged it eight times in all, including a rich version for piano quintet, which I’ve also enjoyed playing. The solo piano arrangement, with its tune starting in the tenor register, reminds one of all the sung Danny Boys one has ever heard. Grainger, like Chopin before him, knew perfectly how to make a piano sing. He also knew a thing or two about the emotional pull of certain harmonies. His fastidious pedal and expression marks complicate the page, but reveal again how much the man cared about music and its communication.
from notes by Piers Lane © 2013