Music Favorites IV - Percy Grainger's In Dahomey
Percy Grainger is one of the only Australian composers that people talk about. He wrote a significant number of pieces, including orchestral and vocal works, but his piano output is his only significant contribution to the modern repertoire. He was known for his dislike of Italian musical terms and notations, so instead of using them he often described how his music should be played in explicit English instructions - so explicit that there leaves little room for interpretation if played exactly as written.
Nearly all of his piano compositions are virtuosic, and In Dahomey (subtitled "Cakewalk Smasher") is certainly no exception. Based off of the cakewalk dance and blending tunes from popular showtunes from the late turn of the century, In Dahomey is an incredibly catchy piece. In it, Grainger provides alternatives to the notation in smaller staves (called ossias, one of the few Italian terms Grainger was fine with using), so there are many "correct" ways to play it.
Grainger's music is worth exploring for its complexity, and performers of his music have to possess a keen attention to detail: some glissandos are notated down to what finger they're supposed to be played with. In Dahomey is scored in such a way as to instruct the pianist to imitate a brass band, including trombone slides.