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The Studio, winter 1984

Unnoticed behind a modern block of flats in Edith Grove, Chelsea, there lurks a forgotten monument to London’s extraordinarily vital artistic and cultural milieu in the years immediately preceding World War I. From 1912 to 1915 Nos. 19 and 19a were home to the American tenor Paul Draper (1886-1925) and his wife Muriel.  After two years in Germany the Drapers had moved to London in 1911- initially to Walter Crane’s former house in Kensington – to enable Paul to continue his studies with the great lieder singer and singing teacher Raimund von Zur Mühlen (1854-1931). Through Zur Mühlen and the agent M.V.Chester they quickly joined the capital’s professional musical elite and were soon inviting artists like Thibaud, Casals and Artur Rubinstein to make music with them at Holland Street.

It was in fact the need for a larger studio which dictated the Drapers’ move to Edith Grove early in 1912. To achieve this they gutted No.19a – apparently built as a maisonette in the garden of No.19 in the late 19th century – and connected it to the main house with a new staircase.  For the next three years the resulting studio regularly resounded to late-night chamber music of a standard which was to become ‘one of the envied pleasures of London’s high Bohemia’ – and is indeed unlikely ever to be surpassed.

Most notably the studio and its musical history achieved legendary status through the publication of Muriel Draper’s book Music at Midnight (New York and London, 1929).  This evocative account of the couple’s years in the house (‘Edith Grove! The two words are a country to me as I write them … and in that country No.19 is the Capital’ …) became a minor literary classic and secondhand copies are still to be found today.  Yet few of Mrs Draper’s readers at any time (and especially since WWII, when Nos. 17 to 21 were destroyed by bombing) will have had any idea that the studio survives, with its historical resonances virtually intact.  Now, a century after the Drapers’ commencement of tenancy, would seem to be the time to ensure its permanent protection.

Artists with known associations with the studio:

Pianists: Harold Bauer, Cortot, Ethel Leginska, Moiseiwitsch, Artur Rubinstein, Irene Scarrer, Carlos Sobrino

Violinists: Arbós, Daisy Kennedy, Kochanski, Tividar Nachez, Louis Persinger, Albert Sammons, Thibaud, Ysaye

Violists: Rebbeca Clarke, Pierre Monteux, Lional Tertis

Cellists: Casals, Rubio, Felix Salmond, Suggia, May Mukle

Double Bass: Victor Watson

Wind Players: Georges Barrère, Charles Draper, Leon Gossens, Adolphe Goosens

London String Quartet (Leader: Sammons)

Conductor: Eugene Goosens

Speaker: Ruth Draper

Staying in the House: Ruth Draper, Rubinstein, Szymanowski, Ysaye

Listeners and visitors included: Henry Ainley, Chaliapin, Montague Chester (of Vert’s Concert Agency), Sybil Colefax, Robin de la Condamine, Lady Cunard, Norman Douglas, Henry James, Henry Melville, Pedro Morales, Monteux, Nijinsky, John Singer Sargent, Getrude Stein, Stravinsky, Szymanowski, Emerson Whithome

Oliver Davies, October 2012

The interior c. 1913

There is now a growing awareness in musical circles that 19a is a building of great significance to the Nation’s Cultural History.

Fireplace at 19a

The Fireplace in the late 1950s

The studio was a focus of the international artistic community at a time of pivotal historical significance, in that the years 1912-1913 mark the birth of modernism in music.

“…when the London season reached its peak, most performing artists would come to the British capital, as all artistic activities on the Continent were at rest until autumn. Paul Kochanski was immediately recognised by the Drapers as a full –fledged partner in all musical activities at the studio, and both he and Zosia were soon intimates of the Bergheim and Draper households.” – Rubinstein, My Young Years. pp. 408-9.

“Our next gathering at the Drapers’ occurred on the spur of the moment…We all went to Jacques Thibaud’s concert at the Queen’s Hall. Entranced by his beautiful playing, the Drapers, I, and many musicians went to the Green Room to thank him. “Let us all go to have supper at Edith Grove,” said Muriel….turning to a group of musicians, “Go and fetch your instruments. Jacques and Arthur will want to make some music.” …On that night I met Lionel Tertis. “This is my friend, a viola player,” said Albert Sammons…” Rubinstein, Ibid. pp. 406-7.

“The beginning of July …Paul Kochanski gave a brilliant recital at Bechstein Hall [now Wigmore Hall – Ed.] followed by much more music at the Drapers.” Rubinstein, Ibid. p. 410.

The events which regularly took place at 19a have resonances which are far-reaching, being only one step away from many other great cultural figures both past and present:

Paul Draper’s association with the great singing teacher Raimund von Zur Muhlen, Brahms’ favourite leider singer, is an important link.

Benno Moiseiwitsch was Rachmaninov’s favourite pupil and often performed at 19a.

Alfred Cortot had been appointed a professor at the Conservatoire de Paris by Gabrielle Fauré in 1907 and had formed his famous Trio with Jaques Thibaud and Pablo Casals in 1905. They were the leading trio of the era when they performed at 19a.

Debussy’s String Quartet Op. 10 was a modern work, and was first performed at the Salle Pleyel in Paris in 1893 by the violinist Eugène Ysaye, a frequent guest at 19a, to whom, with the other members of the quartet, the work is dedicated. It was also performed at 19a.


                                                                                                                                                                                                    Often acclaimed as Poland’s greatest  20th century composer, Karol Szymanowski lived at 19a with the Drapers,  and stayed on for a time after they had left. He may have begun writing his ecstatic and sumptuous First Violin Concerto Op 35 during his time at 19a. It was completed in Zarudzie, Ukraine in 1916 and the violinist Paul Kochanski, whom Szymanowski had met at 19a, advised on the fine points of violin technique during its composition. It is dedicated to him

 Nijinsky’s presence at 19a alone should be enough to capture the interest of the world of ballet, but Stravinsky’s visit for lunch the day after the London premier of The Rite of Spring when Rubinstein introduced him to Szymanowski is of momentous significance. The oft-quoted conversation in which Stravinsky referred to the piano as “a percussion instrument” took place during that meeting at 19a.

         ”The Russian Ballet brought the season to a glorious end; the whole town lived for two weeks under its spell. For me, personally, there was the revelation of a great composer, Igor Stravinsky.” Ibid, p.412

In page 428 of My Young Years Rubinstein recounts his meeting with Stravinsky:

“It was almost noon when he suggested … ’Let us sneak in on Richard Strauss’s new ballet.’… We entered the dark theatre and sat down in the last row… We left the theatre without being seen. Out in the street, he said: ‘It’s time for lunch. Do you know of a good place where we could eat?’
“I was expected to lunch at Edith Grove with Paul, Zosia, Karol [Szymanowski] and Jaroszynski. “‘Would you like to join me for a good meal at my friends’ house, where you will meet a few interesting people who speak French and Russian?’
“The idea pleased him…The unexpected guest was received with all the honours…We had coffee in the studio. Stravinsky sensed immediately the charm of the place, but at the sight of the concert grand he made some denigrating remarks about the piano as a percussion instrument.”

Ruth Draper, whose career path was influenced by the pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski , (a family friend) also has associations resonating throughout the twentieth century. Through her Monologues she directly influenced such well-known figures to us today as Joyce Grenfell (whose father was Ruth Draper’s second cousin), Laurence Olivier, Catherine Hepburn, Maurice Chevalier and Henry James who witnessed her performing career begin at 19a. Her official debut was in 1920.

Henry James wrote a monodrama for her but it was never performed. Sargent’s portrait of Henry James in the National Portrait Gallery was painted in 1913 when all three were frequent visitors to 19a. Sargent’s charcoal sketch of Ruth Draper as ‘The Immigrant’ is to be exhibited in an Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery next year. It dates from 1914, and may have been drawn during a performance at 19a.

Simon Callow has said:

“Each of Ruth Draper’s monodramas presents a dazzling mosaic of a human being. I don’t believe there can ever have been an actor who managed to show you so many sides of a character.”
Her fans included George Bernard Shaw, and US presidents.
John Gielgud said:
“I have always felt that Ruth Draper was (with Martha Graham) the greatest individual performer that America has ever produced.”

There are many links to America. The Drapers returned there at the outbreak of the First
World War, and Muriel Draper’s book Music at Midnight was first published in New York and London by William Heinemann Ltd in 1929. Artur Rubinstein later settled in the US.

I will sum up with another quote from Eugene Goossen’s autobiography, Overture and Beginners,p.101:

“But these are incidents chosen at random, for the temptation is great to linger over tales of the elect who found their haven in the Draper studio; great artists who, escaping from their theatres and concert halls… met together only to experience again (under infinitely more ideal conditions and in infinitely more exquisite surroundings) the artistic emotions, sensations, and re-creations of their individual art…. Yet no words can ever adequately recreate the past glories of Np.19 Edith Grove. Its studio will stand as a relic of the days when great performers made music together just for the love of it.”

Draper, Murial  Music at Midnight published by William Heinemann Ltd New York and London 1929.
Rubinstein, Artur  autobiography My Young Years Published by Jonathan Cape, 30 Bedford Square, London. First published Great Britain 1973. (The extracts in an article by John CQ Roberts and the books jacket /dust cover illustration were reprinted in February 2012 in the Chelsea Society Report 2011 by permission of The Random House Group Ltd.)
Goossens, Eugene  Overture and Beginners, A Musical Autobiography by Methuen & Co. Ltd., London 1951.
Davies, Oliver  Article on 19a Edith Grove was completed in October 2012 for this listing application.
Oliver Davies is much in demand as a pianist and is presently Curator of the Museum of Music History, former Curator and founder of the Department of Portraits and Performance History at the Royal College of Music, Keeper of Portraits at the Royal Academy of Music and at the Royal Society of Musicians.
Please also see the extract from the article by John CQ Roberts, Speak Memory! A Centenary tale from Edith Grove, Chelsea Society Report 2011 showing Sargent’s drawing of Ruth Draper in 1914.

Nicholas Lane October 2012

Architectural Interest

19a Edith Grove

Architecturally the studio is the product of that wonderful upsurge of interest in English history which manifest as Victorian Tudor Gothic. There was an influx of artists into Chelsea during the 19th Century, and 19a is one of an early cluster of Garden Pavilion Studios built in various styles during the 1860s with a North light which nestle among the back gardens between Edith Grove and Netherton Grove in SW10. Many of these studios were either altered beyond recognition or demolished by developers during the 1980s and 90s, including the artist Ceri Richards’ studio at 12a Edith Grove opposite. Dating from 1864,19a is one of the few early examples which remains intact. John Ireland’s studio which also survives behind 14 Gunter Grove nearby is very similar and has a blue plaque.

But none have the understated grandeur of 19a which has a certain unfussy rustic character resembling a medieval Hall House of the late 15th Century, with its great beamed roof spanning almost 30 feet, and Tudor fireplace of noble proportions projecting imposingly into the room (please see photographs Nos 1, c.1913, 2 &3 c.1956, 4&5 2012) The chimney breast is 13 feet high and still retains the iron bar which once supported the Gothic tapestry referred to in the extracts by Goossens and Rubinstein given above, and Muriel Draper also refers to it in her book (Please see photographs). The sand stone fire surround has a mantelpiece unusually extending over three sides to the back wall . There are four Lancet windows looking out onto the small front garden, the mullions and acute arches being of the same yellowish stone. Like the fire surround these were painted after the War. (see photographs). Most of the original parquet floor also survives in the main room, some being removed by the LCC when 19a was converted in to a residence in response to the housing crisis just after the Second World War.

Although badly in need of careful and sympathetic repair, the original slate roof, cast iron drain drainpipe hoppers and brick and tile copings along the retaining walls of the flat stepped gutters all survive intact from 1864 and should be retained as far as possible. As it is a very simple building rather like a mediaeval barn, with the slate roof laid on top of the wooden boards. There is no ceiling. The timber roof is the historic structure and is a vital architectural feature .

Nicholas Lane October 2012