Percy Grainger's last original work for wind orchestra was The Power Of Rome And The Christian Heart, commissioned in 1947 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the League of Composers (who commissioned a band work without strings), and also the 70th birthday of Edwin Franko Goldman. It is his largest work for winds and calls for an organ to supplement the orchestra. This works doesn't breathe the air of, for example, Lincolnshire Posy; colour and atmosphere are the main ingredients. Although he did come to loathe its 'commonplace chords' he always counted it as one of his best compositions.
home in White Plains he loved to improvise on his harmonium, enjoying the
typical sound of the instrument. Grainger did not have a religious association
with the instrument, he just added the sound to the sound of the wind orchestra.
Its enigmatic title
is best explained in Grainger's own words: 'Just as the early Christians
found themselves in conflict with the Power of Ancient Rome so, at all times and
places, the Individual Conscience is apt to feel itself threatened or coerced by
the Forces of Authority. And especially in war time. Men who hate killing are
forced to become soldiers. And other men, though not unwilling to be soldiers,
are horrified to find themselves called upon to fight in the ranks of their
enemies. The sight of young recruits doing bayonet practice, in the first world
war, gave the first impulse to this composition, which, however is not in any
sense programme-music and does not portray the drama of actual events. It's is
merely the unfoldment of musical feelings that were started by thoughts of the
eternal agony of the Individual Soul in conflict with The-Powers-That-Be.'
Power Of Rome And The Christian Heart, first begun in 1918, was completed in
1943 for full symphony orchestra and organ. Faced with the deadline of the
commission and nothing yet on paper, Grainger decided to rescore it for the
occasion. Openly admitting what he had done, he explained: 'As it takes me
about 20 years to finish a tone-work, the best thing I could do was to fix up my
Power of Rome so it could be played without strings'.