GRIEG, Edvard (1843-1907)
Plaque erected in 2004 by English Heritage at 47 Clapham Common North Side, Clapham, London, SW4 0AA, London Borough of Lambeth
Music and Dance
EDVARD GRIEG 1843-1907 Norwegian Composer stayed here when performing in London
The Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg was extremely popular in London at the end of the 19th century. He performed in the capital several times, basing himself beside Clapham Common.
‘CHOPIN OF THE NORTH’
Born in Bergen, Grieg established his reputation as the leading Norwegian composer of his day with works such as his Piano Concerto in A Minor (1868) and the incidental music for Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt (1874−5). His work was often based on the melodies and rhythms of Norwegian folk songs. By the end of his career, he was known as the ‘Chopin of the North’.
In the 1880s and 1890s Grieg was in great demand among English audiences as both conductor and performer, making his first public appearance in London at the Philharmonic Society Concert at St James’s Hall in May 1888. His concerts were usually sold out. Audiences included royalty and members of the aristocracy: the Prince and Princess of Wales attended two of his recitals in 1889, he gave a recital for Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle in 1897, and in 1906 Grieg and his wife – the singer Nina Hagerup (1845–1935) – performed informally for King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra at Buckingham Palace.
‘HOME FROM HOME’
During their visits to London, Grieg and his wife stayed at the home of Grieg’s publisher, George Augener (1830−1915), at 47 Clapham Common North Side (formerly 5 The Cedars). Part of two matching blocks of enormous houses in the French Renaissance style that flank the entrance to Cedars Road, it was built in 1860 to designs by James Thomas Knowles junior. The Norwegian flag is said to have been flown outside when the composer was in residence.
At his Clapham ‘home from home’ he could rehearse for his many concerts and recitals, relax between engagements, and entertain visitors such as Sir George Grove, compiler of the famous dictionary of music. Grieg also loved travelling by tram from Clapham into the West End and the City.
In spring 1889, a journalist from the Pall Mall Gazette interviewed Grieg at his Clapham base, finding the composer and his wife living ‘in peaceful retirement between the intervals of their triumphs at the St James’s Hall’. In all, his stays at North Side amounted to just under five months in total. He gave his last performance in London in 1906 at Buckingham Palace.
At the time of his death in Bergen, Norway, in 1907, Grieg was an international celebrity and was given the state funeral of a national hero.