Grainger Choral Works, Volume 4
This splendid record begins with Father and Daughter, encored (according to Barry Peter Ould’s introductory note) 12 times at its first performance. Poor things! They must have collapsed at the end of that! To perform it once – even to listen to it – burns up the calories at a prodigious rate. Grainger is like an ebullient, infinitely energizing house-guest, rapturously welcome as long as he keeps his visits short, which he generally does, being keen to get on with something else. Possibly the fourth piece in the programme, the orchestral ‘bridal song’, To a Nordic Princess, outstays its time. But people who are likely to take offence really would be well advised to give that one a miss: it was written for his wedding in 1928. In the Hollywood Bowl. Before an audience of tens of thousands.
These pieces, to my ears, are without exception delightful: that is, full of delight, in seeking out unexpected things that music can memorably, charmingly, invigoratingly do. I have not seen a score of Father and Daughter, and find it hard to imagine. It is not a first recording (several other items are), and this 23-verse dancing ballad from the Faeroe Islands is also included in the Grainger recital under Sir John Eliot Gardiner (Philips, 4/96). There it is taken even faster (2'38'' to Hickox’s 3'02'') and sung in English. The effect is neatly athletic, but the new version loses nothing in vitality, and allows a little more time to savour the play of solo voices and chorus, the nimble rhythmic side-steps and the orchestral colours. The Danish language – suggestive (but perhaps not to everybody) of a rude variant of What shall we do with a drunken sailor – gives added zest. Now, however, yet another version seems to be called for: one which gives place and prominence to the band of 30 mandolin and guitar players included in the premiere of 1912.
Accounts of that event differ somewhat. Stephen Lloyd in The Percy Grainger Companion (Thames: 1981) says that the work was ‘twice encored and himself [Grainger] recalled a dozen times.’ I mention this anomaly only because the notes quite often fail to give desirable information (the date of the 1928