February 2010

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Percy Grainger & Edvard Grieg

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

As a small child growing up in Melbourne, Percy Grainger devoured the Icelandic sagas, signed his letters “Grettir the Strong” and bounded up every available stairway. His adoring mother Rose, meanwhile, was showing him what happens to naughty boys who neglect their piano practice. In 1894, aged 12, Percy made his concert debut. The Argus declared him a remarkable instance of juvenile precocity.  Rose promptly relocated him to Europe.

In London in 1906, he met Edvard Grieg at a high-society dinner. The celebrated Norwegian composer was a physical wreck. Plagued with pleurisy, arthritis and nocturnal hallucinations, the 63-year-old was charmed at energetic young Percy’s enthusiasm for some of his lesser-known pieces. After hearing him play, the master of trollish anthems and Nordic maunderings declared Grainger “a genius that we Scandinavians cannot do other than love”. Grainger, likewise, was enthralled. Already in search of folkloric inspiration, he considered Grieg an iconoclast with an “elvish sparkle”.

The following summer, the two musicians spent a week together at the Scandinavian maestro’s home in Troldhaugen, intensively rehearsing Grieg’s piano concerto. A performance was scheduled for October in Leeds, with Grieg to conduct.

But the tiny, enervated Norseman was on his last legs. An unsuccessful Finsen Electric Light Bath treatment had failed to cure his insomnia, breathlessness and terrible nightmares. On the day before his departure for England, his heart gave out under the strain.

Although they had known each other for just 15 months, Grainger continued to champion Grieg’s work until his own death, in 1961. By then, Percy had moved permanently to the United States where the Duo-Art piano-roll sales of his ‘Country Gardens’ enabled him to indulge in some of his more flamboyant interests. These included propounding the superiority of the Nordic races, inventing a “blue-eyed” language free of Latinate impurities, designing towelling clothing and satisfying a lifelong taste for flagellation.

The composer of hundreds of pieces of music and a virtuoso performer in thousands of concerts, Percy Grainger left a large musical legacy, a sizeable collection of custom-made whips, his dental X-rays and an experimental music machine called the Kangaroo Pouch. Edvard Grieg got a day of national mourning. His ‘Morning Mood’ will be instantly recognisable to Looney Tunes fans.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

Cover: February 2010

February 2010

From the front page

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Eliza Hittman’s abortion drama is marked by the emotional solidarity of its teen protagonists

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The new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic tale is visually lush, but lacks the novel’s nuance


In This Issue

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The whirling dervish

On Tony Abbott

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Supermarket sweep

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Saga

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Strutting & fretting


More in Encounters

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Rupert Murdoch & Kamahl

Mark Oliphant & J Robert Oppenheimer

John Monash & King George V

John Howard & Uri Geller


Read on

Image of Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit.

Chequered careers: ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ and ‘The Good Lord Bird’

Among October’s streaming highlights are stories of a teenage chess prodigy and a zealous abolitionist

Image showing Sidney Flanigan as Autumn and Talia Ryder as Skylar

Quiet desperation: ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’

Eliza Hittman’s abortion drama is marked by the emotional solidarity of its teen protagonists

Image from Rebecca, with Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs Danvers and Lily James as Mrs de Winter

Airbrushed horror: Ben Wheatley’s ‘Rebecca’

The new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic tale is visually lush, but lacks the novel’s nuance

Former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull with a screenshot of Turnbull’s confirmation of signing the petition

The Corp’s bride

Despite a widely supported petition, the government is too scared to take on the Murdoch empire


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