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Elisabeth Lutyens


"In music you clarify what you want by knowing what you don't want."  
Elisabeth Lutyens
The English composer was born in London on 9 July 1906 as the daughter of Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect, and Lady Emily Lutyens. She studied at the Royal College of Music (1926-1930) under Harold Darke (composition) and Ernest Tomlinson (viola). She studied in Paris at the Ecole Normale de Musique (1922-1923) under Marcelle de Manziarly and privately under George Caussade (1930).

A pioneer in twelve-note music, she introduced this concept into Great Britain in 1939 with Humphrey Searle, her own works being written before 1935. She helped found the Macnaughten-Lemare Concerts in London (1931) and founded the Composer’s Concourse there in 1954. In the
mid-1960s she formed her own publishing company, the Olivan Press.

Her first work to gain international recognition was the String Quartet No. 2, which was performed at the ISCM Festival in Warsaw in 1939. She was represented again at the ISCM Festivals in 1942, 1945, 1948 and 1949. She composed about 200 published works including 80 film and radio scores. She also wrote incidental music for theater. She penned a number of books, including an autobiography and many articles.

In 1969 she was awarded the  C. B. E. and also received the Lord Mayor of London Midsummer Award to the Arts. She died on 14 April 1983.

"I was never a real serialist. I produce a twelve-note theme and repeat it without the serialism of chords and accompaniments. For me it's a means of writing quite fast in an idiom devoid of predictable harmonic idioms and it is useful to know what the next note is"  (And she complained about strict serialism and offended many composers in the process).
Elisabeth Lutyens

book tip

Elisabeth Lutyens:
"A Goldfish Bowl" (An autobiography),
Cassel, London 1972


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Elisabeth Lutyens