A Pilgrim Soul: the life of Elisabeth Lutyens

Elisabeth Lutyens (1906-83) was one of the most radical British composers of her generation. Dubbed 'Twelve-Tone Lizzie', she is remembered both for her pioneering role in English music and as an outrageous personality of the twentieth-century musical world - as Edwin Lutyens's daughter, Bohemian aristocrat, an indomitable eccentric preaching a new musical gospel before its time. In this first biography, Meirion and Susie Harries explore that image, to find the woman behind the composer.

 

From a background that was privileged, but pressured by her father's fame and her mother's devotion to Theosophy, Lutyens came to composition less from a conviction of her own talent than because it was a  field in which no one in her family could compete. The role of composer was one in which she was to struggle all her life, finding it hard and at times impossible to reconcile the conflicting demands of music, motherhood and two difficult marriages. For years she was dogged by bouts of depression, alcoholism and self-doubt, aggravated by her frequent tendency to put the wrong foot forward. Yet she was also an inspiring teacher, loyal friend, and courageous fighter, determined to clear a space for herself in the contemporary musical jungle.  A Pilgrim Soul reveals a vital, imaginative figure, as vulnerable and often unhappy as she was attractive and, above all, original.

© 2015 Susie Harries