Elizabeth Maconchy

(1907 - 1994)


Elizabeth Maconchy was born in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, on March 19, 1907, but spent her childhood in Ireland. There was no radio or concerts and her only musical experience was what she could create for herself at the piano. Her composition studies at the Royal College of Music, London, where she delighted in exploring Bartok, Berg, and Janacek, were under Charles Wood and Vaughan Williams, who, with Holst, was impressed by her originality. Under a Blumenthal traveling scholarship to Prague, she made her debut as a composer when her CONCERTO FOR PIANO was performed by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra in 1930; a few months later THE LAND was premiered by Henry Wood at the Promenade Concerts with brilliant success. In spite of a long bout with tuberculosis, the demands of raising a family, and persistent prejudice against a female composer, the compositions continued to flow out and her works were played often in Britain and abroad, with some concerts devoted entirely to her work. She received many awards, including a Daily Telegraph award for chamber music in 1933 and a medal from the Worshipful Company of Musicians for services to chamber music in 1970. She also received Edwin Evans prizes in 1948 and 1969 and many other awards. She was created a Dame in 1987. Dame Elizabeth was Vice-President of the Composers' Guild and its chairlady, President of the SPNM, and Vice-President of the Society of Woman Musicians and of the Workers' Music Association, working tirelessly throughout her life to promote new music.

Her compositions, many of which were commissions by leading performers and festivals throughout the country, include concertos and symphonies, many chamber pieces, a large body of vocal music, three ballets, five operas, and an operetta. She is particularly well known for her thirteen string quartets, which are available on CD from Unicorn Kanchana. The music is characterised by a passion which gives vitality to the more formal arguments. It has wit, economy and intellectual control, in a richly expressive harmonic idiom.


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