Friday, 18 September 2009

Liza Lehmann: A Brief Biography by Arthur Elson & Everett E. Truette

Of the long list of song composers, but few have produced anything of marked artistic value. Fore most among these at present is Liza Lehmann, who has recently become famous through her song cycle, In a Persian Garden. She came of a gifted family, for her father, Rudolph, was an excellent artist, and her mother a composer of songs, which were modestly published over the initials "A. L."
Her grandfather was Robert Chambers, famed by his Encyclopaedia. Born in London, she studied singing with Randegger, and composition afterward with Freudenberg, of Wiesbaden, and the Scottish composer, MacCunn. She expected to make a career as a singer, but found herself so extremely nervous whenever appearing that she was forced to abandon the idea. She persevered awhile, however, and has been frequently heard in Great Britain and Germany. In 1894 she retired and married Mr. Herbert Bedford. Only then did she begin those efforts in composition that have since met with such great success. She has published a number of songs and some piano and violin pieces, but is always thought of in connection with her cyclic setting of the Persian poet, Omar Khayyam. When she composed this, she was little known, and fortune as well as fame was a stranger to her. Oddly enough, all the London publishers refused this work, which has since then charmed two continents.
Finally it was sung at her house by a gathering of musical friends, the performers being Ben Davies, Albani, Hilda Wilson, and David Bispham. They were so delighted with it that they brought it out at the 'Monday Pops,' and after that its success was assured. There are other song cycles by this composer, notably In Memoriam, but none equal the Persian Garden. It is full of rich passages of exquisite beauty, moving pathos, and strong expression.
Woman’s Work In Music 1903 (1931) p146f

1 comment:

Karen said...

Arthur Elson (1873-1940 was an American writer on music, who became a music critic for a major Boston, Massachusetts newspaper. He was also a teacher and composer. Elson wrote a fair number of books, including his pioneering Women's Work in Music in 1903 that stands as a remarkable achievement. At the time it would not have been easy to amass the amount of material that Elson includes in this 260-page book. At the end of it he has a list of women composers from around the world that cover 16 pages! Talk about forgotten composers, this list is full of them but at the time he wrote the book, they were known.
Liza Lehmann (according to Marion Scott, who knew her)pronounced her first name as "Leeza". She served as the first president of the Society of Women Musicians and is grandmother of composer David Bedford and conductor Steuart Bedford. Thankfully her music and her legacy have not been forgotten. Thank you for sharing this.