September 30, 2021
Martin Jones(Resonus)Prolific, radical and scandalously overlooked, Lutyens gets some belated recognition with Jones’s take on her terse, unadorned piano music
Elisabeth Lutyens: Piano Works Volume 1 review | Andrew Clementss classical album of the week
Perhaps it’s inevitable, but the current emphasis on promoting the work of female composers tends to focus on those working today, while a whole generation of female composers, born in the decade or so before the first world war, is consistently ignored. The most notable of those figures were Elizabeth Maconchy, Elisabeth Lutyens and Priaulx Rainier (who was born in South Africa, but lived in Britain for most of her life). And of that trio perhaps the most egregiously overlooked has been Lutyens, who was the first British composer to adopt 12-note technique, and who in the middle decades of the 20th century was arguably the most radical composer working in Britain.
Though Lutyens’s music was often dismissed in her lifetime, it has been quite scandalously overlooked since her death in 1983 at the age of 76. Her output was enormous – more than 150 opus numbers, not including her numerous scores for film and television – and relatively little of it is available on disc. But Martin Jones’s survey of the piano music – in meticulous, clearly affectionate performances – should fill at least one of the yawning gaps. He begins with the pieces Lutyens composed in the last years of her life, between 1972 and 1981. Two are sets of miniatures: the Seven Preludes Op 126, each with a title taken from John Keats, and the Five Impromptus Op 116, all of them tightly organised and laconic, sometimes recalling Debussy and Messiaen, sometimes Webern.
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