Comrades in Art

April 2010
15 black and white illustrations
280 pages
25x15 cm
Musicians on Music
ISBN: 9780907689676
Format: Hardback
Toccata Press

Comrades in Art

The Correspondence of Ronald Stevenson and Percy Grainger, 1957-61, with Interviews, Essays and other Writings on Grainger by Ronald Stevenson

Edited by Teresa Balough

The correspondence of the composer-pianists Percy Grainger [1882-1961] and Ronald Stevenson [b. 1928], together with Stevenson's writings on Grainger and two interviews with Stevenson.
In 1957 the Australian-American composer Percy Grainger, then 75 and in failing health, received a letter from another pianist-composer, the young Ronald Stevenson, writing from his home in West Linton, below Edinburgh. That first contact - requesting Grainger's reminiscences of Ferruccio Busoni, with whom he had studied - led to an exchange of 32 letters over the four years before Grainger's death in February 1961. The two men soon found that, despite their 46-year age-difference, they had many affinities. Both were pianists of staggering abilities and composers who combined a love for folk-music and working-class art with an aesthetic that proposed a `world music' to include the farthest reaches of humanity. Both made an art of piano transcription of a wide variety of works and were champions of little-known music and composers. And both revered the work of Walt Whitman, that great poet of inclusivity, the pioneering spirit and the open road.

This book presents both the complete Grainger-Stevenson correspondence and Ronald Stevenson's many articles and lectures on Grainger and his music, edited by Teresa Balough, whose two interviews with Stevenson open and close the volume - which includes a CD of a lecture-recital on Grainger that Stevenson presented in Grainger's home in White Plains, New York, in 1976.


This is a welcome addition to the Grainger literature in this fiftieth anniversary of his death. [...] there is much to enjoy and to think about from the pen and voice of a very fine composer [...] reflecting and illuminating our understanding of Grainger. [...] the book is beautifully produced, with many attractive and revealing illustrations. DELIUS SOCIETY JOURNAL

Comrades in Art is a highly entertaining portrait of two composers: Percy Grainger and Ronald Stevenson. ... [A] must have for the Grainger enthusiast. The book is attractive in organization and content... . Comrades in Art is more than just the correspondence between two composers. It is a study of the music of Grainger and its place in music culture through the eyes of a scholarly admirer. TEMPO

Ronald Stevenson proves himself an eloquent Grainger devotee, in his writings, in interview with Teresa Balough, and on the accompanying CD, noting the connection between Grainger and Busoni, the shared devotion he had to Whitman, and delight in Kipling. Stevenson is clearly a pianist in the Grainger manner, robust and forthright. It is a joy. MUSIC & VISION DAILY

The subsequent, if short, correspondence ranged widely and they discovered common interests, folk music and the poetry of Walt Whitman among them. Perhaps Grainger's most astonishing claim is that he was the real pioneer in most aspects of modern music. [...] There is a lot of material available about Grainger and this unabashed tribute is a complement to that. And we get to make closer acquaintance with Ronald Stevenson along the way. FANFARE

Fascinating and entertaining reading...The men correspond with a style and grace that seems remote in this e-mail age....Reading these letters...will have you fired up about two under-appreciated musical free-thinkers. SCOTSMAN

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