George Grove

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Sir George Grove (born Clapham, South London, 13 August 1820; died Sydenham, 28 May 1900 was an English engineer and musician. He wrote books about classical composers and is particularly famous for his big musical dictionary Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians. This dictionary continued to be updated and published after his death. It has now gone through seven editions. The latest edition is available online.

Life[change | change source]

George Grove was born in Clapham in South London. His father sold fish. His mother was musical. He learned to be an engineer and was sent out to Jamaica to help to build a lighthouse. He worked on the building of the Britannia tubular bridge over the Menai Strait. He married the daughter of a clergyman. He became secretary of the Society of Arts and he wrote many articles for a Dictionary of the Bible. He spent seven years doing this. It gave him the idea of doing something similar for music.

Grove went to many concerts. He bought sheet music and studied it. He wrote programme notes for concerts, writing about the music that was being played. He wrote about a lot of music by Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Schumann. He wrote detailed essays about the symphonies of Beethoven and was a good friend of Clara Schumann. He travelled with the composer Arthur Sullivan to Vienna where he met many great musicians including Brahms and discovered some music by Schubert that had been forgotten. He spent several years writing his Dictionary of Music which was published in four volumes.

Grove worked very hard to get enough money to found the Royal College of Music which was opened in 1883 by the Prince of Wales. Grove got many great musicians to come and teach there, including the world-famous singer Jenny Lind who was already retired, and Hubert Parry, Charles Villiers Stanford and others. The prime minister William Gladstone gave him a knighthood for what he had done for music. The new students included many who were to become famous. These include Hamish MacCunn and Charles Wood. He became very fond of the student Edith Oldham and had an emotional attachment to her for the rest of his life. His wife was not interested in his work. He called his students his "children" and persuaded them to have a broad education. He wanted them to read a lot. He was director of the RCM for eleven years, retiring in 1894, just after the RCM moved into a new building which is situated on the south side of the Royal Albert Hall. The RCM is still there today.

George Grove was a very influential man for English music. Although he was not trained as a musician he became extremely knowledgeable and was an excellent musicologist. The RCM have a George Grove Memorial Scholarship in his memory.

References[change | change source]

  • The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians ed. Stanley Sadie, 1980; ISBN 1-56159-174-2