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Nightingale and the Two Sisters, The

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Percy Aldridge Grainger

Percy Aldridge Grainger (arr. Joseph Kreines)

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General Info

Year: 1931
Duration: c. 4:18
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Aeolus
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $40.00


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

The Nightingale and the Two Sisters is the third movement from Grainger’s Danish Folk-Music Suite arranged by Joseph Kreines. The music from the Suite is based on Danish folk-songs Grainger collected in Jutland (northern Denmark) from 1922-1927. Along with Danish folklorist, Evald Tang Kristensen, Percy Grainger sought to compare the singing habits of Danish countryside singers with those of English folk-singers who had been previously recorded. Their findings revealed amazing similarities between the two peoples’ singing.

The work is actually constructed using two songs: The Nightingale and The Two Sisters.”The words of “he Nightingale refer to a small bird (mightingale) singing sweetly from a large tree near a grand castle. A knight passing by hears the sweet singing and is surprised as it is near midnight. Further verses reveal that the nightingale is actually a maiden who was turned into a nightingale by the evil spells from her wicked step-mother. Wanting to cast out the evil spells, the knight takes hold of the nightingale who at that point has shape-changed into a dragon. While holding the dragon, the knight cuts her with his sword and the evil spell is bled, leaving a “beautiful maiden as fair as a flower.”

The Two Sisters verses explore the story of two sisters - one old, one young. The tale of evil jealousy unfolds as the elder sister pushes her younger sister into the water to drown because she wants for herself the gentleman to whom the younger sister is bethrothed. Following the drowning, two fiddle makers find the younger sister’s corpse and decide to make fiddle strings of her hair and violin pegs of her fingers. Later, the elder sister is burnt alive at her own wedding after the crafted violin is played, revealing the truth of the sister’s murderous wrong-doing.

- Program Note from the Coppell North Honor Winds concert program, 12 February 2016


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State Ratings

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