Date:  15 September 2004 23:00 - 24 August 2004 23:00

Blue Plaque for Grieg unveiled

A Blue Plaque dedicated to Edvard Grieg was unveiled in Clapham on 16 September. The composer spent some six months of his life in England, first as a teenager in 1862, then between 1888 and 1906. By this time his music was more popular in England than that of any other composer

Norway’s most celebrated composer Edvard Grieg spent some six months of his life in England, first briefly as a teenager in 1862, then on a series of wide-ranging concert tours, usually together with his singer wife Nina, between 1888 and 1906.  By this time, his music was more popular in England than that of any other living composer.  In consequence he found himself lionized whenever he came to this country:  the concerts at which he played or conducted in London were invariably sold out, and he was awarded honorary doctorates at both Oxford and Cambridge universities.

Grieg’s London base was the home of his publisher, George Augener, who lived at 47 North Side, Clapham Common.  The composer’s accommodation was on the second floor, and his music/reception room overlooked the Common.  Augener’s distinguished guest would often take tea in the afternoon with his hosts in the principal reception room on the ground floor below, and it is adjacent to this room that English Heritage is siting the plaque, in other words facing the main A3 road that separates the house from the Common.  The  main entrance to the house is just round the corner in Cedars Road, and above it Augener would in later days fly the Norwegian flag whenever Grieg was in residence.

The Blue Plaque dedicated to Grieg was unveiled at 3.00 pm on Thursday 16 September by the Norwegian Ambassador, H E Mr Tarald Brautaset, and a representative of English Heritage.

47 North Side, Clapham Common, London SW4 at 3pm.

Ambassador Tarald O. Brautaset's speech at the unveiling ceremony:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, outside number 47 North Side, Clapham Common, we celebrate Edvard Grieg’s strong links with Great Britain, with London and in particular his ties with this house that belonged to his friend and publisher, Mr. George Augener.

Edvard Grieg needs no introduction.  Almost 100 years after his death, he remains Norway’s best-known and best-loved composer.

From now on people walking, cycling or driving past this house will be reminded that Edvard Grieg lived here whenever he visited London.  Not only did he live here, he practised, he rehearsed and he received artist friends and others when he came to give concerts and recitals from 1888 till 1897.

When you walk around in London and see a Blue Plaque put up by English Heritage on a building and read the short text, you get a few basic facts.  But these few facts enable you there and then to visualise that a person of historic interest lived in the building and probably also was part of the neighbourhood. 
We are all impressed by and thankful for the important work English Heritage has done and continues to do by putting up Blue Plaques.  They enrich the communities and bring an element of continuity to a rapidly changing environment.

Grieg was quite nervous about his London debut in 1888.  But his friend Tchaikovsky reassured him and wrote:  “You are highly regarded and popular in London, which you are anyway everywhere”.  Tchaikovsky was right.  Grieg’s concerts were  hugely successful and he kept coming back to London and to this house.  In 1897, on the last occasion he came to stay in Clapham, the London press wrote: “Of all living composers, Grieg in undoubtedly the most popular, but also the most original and poetic”.

He and his wife Nina very much liked the house and its friendly and relaxed atmosphere.  He also knew the neighbourhood well. In an interview he explains to the journalist that it’s difficult to get a cab outside the door.  But that does not bother him.  He said:  “I walk down the road and go by tram to Westminster Bridge”.

I don’t know if it’s any easier to get a cab here today, but I am pleased and honoured to unveil this plaque to a great composer whose London home this once was.  The plaque is yet another emblem of the close cultural ties that link our two countries.

Once again I would like to offer my thanks to our friends at English Heritage who have so readily acknowledged the importance of this house.

Thank you.

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