Liza Lehmann, classical music composer

Liza Lehmann


Liza Lehmann (11 July 1862 - 19 September 1918) was an English operatic soprano and composer, known for her vocal compositions.

She was born Elizabeth Nina Mary Frederika Lehmann in London. Her father was the German painter Rudolf Lehmann and her mother was Amelia (A.L.) Chambers, a music teacher, composer and arranger. Liza "grew up in an intellectual and artistic atmosphere" (Baker, 1992, p. 1030) and lived in Germany, France, and Italy in her early years. She studied singing in London with both Alberto Randegger and Jenny Lind, and her composition teachers included Hamish MacCunn in London, Niels Raunkilde in Rome, and Wilhelm Freudenberg in Wiesbaden.

On 23 November 1885, she made her singing début at a Monday Popular Concert at St James's Hall, and spent the next nine years performing many important concert engagements in England. She received encouragement from important European musicians such as Joseph Joachim and Clara Schumann.

She retired from the stage after a final concert at St James's Hall on 14 July 1894, and married the composer and painter Herbert Bedford. The couple's grandsons include conductor Steuart Bedford and composer David Bedford. For the rest of her life she concentrated on composing music. She completed one of her best known works two years later, in 1896, the song cycle for four voices and piano titled In a Persian Garden, settings of selected quatrains from Edward FitzGerald's version of the Rubāiyāt of Omar Khayyām. She composed many more song cycles including The Daisy Chain and an In Memoriam based on Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem. She also became known for her parlour songs and other works in the following years.

In 1904 she was commissioned by Frank Curzon to compose the score for the Edwardian musical comedy Sergeant Brue with a libretto by Owen Hall and lyrics by James Hickory Wood. The piece was a success, but Lehmann was unhappy that Curzon added other composers' music to her score. Although she refused to write any further musicals, Lehmann composed the score for a comic opera adaptation of The Vicar of Wakefield in 1906, with a libretto by Laurence Housman. This piece was a modest success but did not lead to further comic operas.

In 1910, Lehmann made a successful tour of the United States, where she accompanied her own songs in recitals. She became the first president of the Society of Women Musicians in 1911 and 1912 and was a professor of singing at the GSM. She also wrote a voice study text, Practical Hints for Students of Singing. In 1916, Lehmann wrote the score for an opera, Everyman, which was produced by the Beecham Opera Company.

Lehmann and Maude Valérie White were England's foremost female composers of songs at the beginning of the 20th century. Although they both composed solo settings of serious texts, they excelled in setting lighter material. Some of Lehmann's compositional practices, such as her frequent use for four-voice cycles and writing piano links between songs, were consistent with her time, yet her pieces were inventive; they are now often overlooked and disregarded. She wrote many children's songs, ranging from the sweet and trivial "There are fairies at the bottom of our garden" to the melodically and harmonically passionate "Stars" in The Daisy-Chain. Her tenor song "Ah, moon of my delight" from In a Persian Garden is operatic.

Lehmann died at Pinner, Middlesex at the age of 56.

Composer Title Date Action
Liza Lehmann From "In Persian Garden," Myself when Young 01/18/2009 Play Add to playlist
Liza Lehmann From "In Persian Garden," As then the Tulip 01/15/2009 Play Add to playlist