The Times/1900/Obituary/George Grove
Death of Sir George Grove.
By the death of Sir George Grove, C.B., which occurred at his residence in London last evening, the English musical world has lost not only one of its staunchest supporters, but also one of its leading critics. For though he was not a musician by profession, yet his influence upon the best class of young native musicians was both widespread and beneficial. Sir George Grove's health has been failing for the past 18 months, and only his extraordinary vitality enabled him to withstand for so long the effects of several paralytic seizures, the last of which occurred on Friday night. Sir George was quite unconscious at the last. His family were with him.
Sir George Grove, born on August 13, 1820, was the second son of Thomas Grove and Harriet, his wife, a daughter of the late Rev. Charles Bradley of Clapham. After passing through Clapham Grammar School. he was articled to Alexander Gordon, an engineer, and for two years worked in Napier's factory at Broomielaw, near Glasgow. Though he is chiefly known to this generation by his Dictionary of Music and Musicians" and by the work he did as secretary to the Royal College of Music, it was an engineer that he first gained a name. In 1841, and again in 1845 Sir George was employed in the West Indies, in the former year in the erection of the Morant Point lighthouse in Bermuda. On returning to England he joined C. H. Wild's staff, at the Chester general station, and Edwin Clark's at the Britannia Bridge. In 1849 Sir George Grove became secretary to the Society of Arts, and three years later he was appointed to a similar post in connexion with the Crystal Palace Company, then recently formed. This practically marked the commencement of his musical career, and from that time to the day of his death he was more or less intimately, though not professionally, associated with the famous Crystal Palace concerts.
The musical career of Sir George Grove is a striking example of what may be accomplished by an amateur without any very definite or thorough technical training in music. Perhaps for the very reason that he was an amateur and that, as a consequence, his enthusiasms were evidently disinterested, he acquired an influence in the world of music which was at least as great and as widespread as that of any of professional musician. It was due not less to his keen interest and wise helpful counsels than to the great ability of Mr. August Manns that the Crystal Palace concerts obtained their European fame and the power they have exerted on the progress of the art in England. The series of analyses signed with the very familiar initial "G." opened the eyes of ordinary people who were merely "fond of music" to the possibilities of a more intellectual form of pleasure which music had it in its power to impart; and the fact that the programmes avoided almost entirely the use of terms which might be deemed obscure ensured for them a universal recognition. From the foundation of the concerts in 1855 until quite recently he remained intimately connected with their management, although his official position in regard to the Crystal Palace had been given up for many years. He was editor of Macmillan's Magazine from 1868 to 1883, and, owing to the combined energy of himself and this firm of publishers, his monumental "Dictionary of Music and Musicians," started in 1878, became an accomplished fact, and was completed by an appendix issued in 1889. His articles on Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Schubert, though open to reproach that they disturbed to some extent the balance of the whole work, yet stand as evidence of the force of his enthusiasm for these masters, towards whom he cherished a special devotion. In regard to the last composer he did a still more useful work, since in the course of a journey with Sir Arthur (then Mr.) Sullivan in 1867 he unearthed at Vienna a number of MSS. of important compositions by Schubert (including the Rosamunde music) which have since become universally known and admired. On the foundation of the Royal College of Music in 1882, he was appointed its first Director, and he performed the onerous duties of the post with such success that the institution soon reached the high position it so worthily holds in the present day. The distinguishing characteristics of the college, a thorough catholicity of taste and an earnest and well-directed enthusiasm, both of which marked Sir George Grove's own character in no slight degree, were in strong contrast to that kind of "professionalism" through which, at the time of its foundation, the work of the older music-schools had become so sadly perfunctory. Sir George Grove retired from the direction of the college in 1894, at the time of the opening of the new building, when he was elected a member of the council. Since that date, although his interest in the art was as ardent as ever, he accomplished little of importance. His analyses of Beethoven's symphonies were published, in book form, with some additions, in 1896, and he contributed introductions to various books on the subject of music. Out of the large number of contributions to literature generally may be mentioned many articles written for Smith's "Dictionary of the Bible," a short history of classical music, and an appendix to W. von Hellborn's Life of Schubert. He was at one time a frequent correspondent of The Times on musical subjects. Sir George was deeply interested in Biblical geography, and was chiefly instrumental in the promotion of the Palestine Exploration Fund. He received the honour of a knighthood in 1882, and was also a C.B. Sir George Grove was D.C.L. of Durham, LL.D. of Glasgow, and a member of the Committee of the Bach-Gesellschaft.
Sir George Grove was a man of wide culture and of particularly kindly and generous nature to the younger generation of native musicians, whom he was always ready to help with sound advice. His knowledge of the work of the three great musicians already mentioned was very great, and his admiration for them, and more especially for Schubert, amounted almost to hero-worship. His analyses of Beethoven's symphonies in the shape in which they were issued as a book, with the additions and emendations, form a classic by reading which no musician, professional or amateur, can fail to benefit. His kindliness is seen in many a prefatory note attached to the firstling of some new author, and probably no young musician of serious aim ever appealed for help or advice in vain to Sir George Grove.