Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Elisabeth Lutyens

I think of the composer Elisabeth Lutyens (1906-1983) every time I go to the island of Lindisfarne. The reason is quite a tenuous one - her father, the architect Edwin Lutyens, renovated the castle there in 1901. Her music definitely falls into the "potentially difficult" category, although I don't think one should be deterred by this. For me it has an engaging, haunting quality about it.

The few British composers I've featured so far in this series produced, by and large, accessible music (an intriguing exception is John Tavener who, as the only "avant garde" composer to be signed by Virgin Records raises interesting questions about what constitutes "accessible" music). Lutyens, on the other hand, was one of the few composers in Britain at the time to follow the lead of continental composers writing atonal music. She adopted, modified and developed their methods to suit her own needs. Think of her, if you like, as a Barbara Hepworth of postwar British music.

I particularly like this Youtube video of Lutyens' Five Bagatelles for piano. OK, it could be all sorts of places but I'm guessing  the illustrations are of Norfolk. They certainly go well, I think, with the music, which is interesting, as British landscape is usually associated with the sound-world of Vaughan Williams.

Lutyens also worked as a film composer. She was the first woman to compose music for a British feature film - Penny and the Pownall Case, starring Diana Dors and Christopher Lee.

This post is one of a series on post-WWII British Composers. Click on the link to read them all.


The Weaver of Grass said...

Surely that is the essence of the music - you say you are guessing it is Norfolk but maybe it can be anywhere for anyone, making it even more universal.
I certainly loved your U Tube piece.
But not sure I could listen to a whole concert of it.

Gwil W said...

I will play this tomorrow and imagine you carrying a Christmas tree.

Sandy's witterings said...

Another new name for me. I just found one of her string quartets on Youtube - reminds me a bit of some Shostakovich sting quartets I once had. not instantly accessable but they seem to seep into you after a while.
So far today, you've proved quite good for my musical education. Keep it up.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments, everyone.

WG: It could be anywhere - but I've a feeling the boats in those photos are traditional Norfolk ones (I forget what they call them).

GwilW: Tree carried home - and decorated now.

Sandy: You're right - it's definitely music that "seeps in". I think the more of it you know, the quicker it seeps in, too.

By the way, it's great to see someone wanting more Alan Rawsthorne. His Violin and Piano Sonata is my favourite piece of all of his, but I can't find it on Youtube at all. The third movement is definitely on my Desert Island Discs list. It's incredibly difficult - which means the piece hardly ever gets played! It is on CD:


tony said...

Hey Dominic,'Sorry I Have Been AWOL so much recently!I Hope You Have A Really Good Christmas.
Your Post Help Me Solve A Puzzle -I've been wanting to go somewhere early in The New Year but could think where...Lindisfarne could fit the bill? I havent been there for several years but I love the place....(although the weather would have to stay mild for trips to the North East.....)All The Best,T.