Nicola LeFanu

b. 1947



A celebrated composer and respected teacher, Nicola LeFanu’s musical career now spans over 50 years, during which time she has won numerous awards and established a catalogue of works encompassing every genre. The daughter of composer Elizabeth Maconchy, she studied at Oxford and the Royal College of Music, soon winning a series of prizes that would launch her career as a composer. She has held teaching posts at King’s College, University of London and the University of York, where she was Chair of the Music Department. LeFanu professes an affinity with vocal music, which dominates her output. She the composer of eight operas, including the Lorca-inspired Blood Wedding and The Wildman, based on a legend from the 13th century. Her concert works often draw their inspiration from literature and the natural world, whether in the early orchestral score Columbia Falls, which takes its title from a village in Maine, the Calvino-inspired clarinet quintet Invisible Places, or a host of song settings to poetry ranging from Walter de la Mare and Cecil Day Lewis to Medieval French love poems and Oriental texts.
Critical Acclaim
British composer Nicola LeFanu is renowned for works of imaginative beauty - Kate Wakeling, BBC Music Magazine, 01/04/2017


Nicola LeFanu was born in England in 1947, the daughter of Irish parents. Her mother was the composer Elizabeth Maconchy. As well as composing she has enjoyed teaching composition in England, America and Australia. For many years she taught at King's College, University of London, where she had a Chair in Composition. From 1994-2008 she held the Chair of the Music Department at the University of York. In 2017 she celebrated her seventieth birthday and was BBC Composer of the Week.

After her studies at Oxford, she spent a year at the Royal College of Music in London, where she won a Cobbett Prize with the Oboe Quartet in 1970. In 1972, she won a Gulbenkian Dance Award to work with the Ballet Rambert; in 1973, the Mendelssohn Scholarship, and a Harkness Award which took her for a year to the USA. During these years, she wrote works to commissions for the Cheltenham, Farnborough, Aldeburgh, and Norwich Festivals, and for the 1973 BBC Proms.

While in the USA, she wrote the song cycle The Same Day Dawns, commissioned by the Fromm Foundation and first performed by Diana Hoagland and members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra with the composer conducting. LeFanu has written music for orchestra, chamber groups, many works for voice and several operas. Her opera catalogue includes the chamber opera Dawnpath (1977), a radio opera The Story of Mary O'Neill (1986), a children's opera The Green Children (1990), (libretto by Kevin Crossley-Holland), and Blood Wedding (1992), (libretto by Debra Levy, after Lorca).

Nicola LeFanu's fifth opera, The Wildman (1995), was another collaboration with Crossley-Holland; it was commissioned by the Aldeburgh Foundation and premiered in June 1995, with members of the Britten Sinfonia and Nicholas Cleobury. Following this premiere, performances of The Wildman then took place at Huddersfield, St. Magnus, Oxford, and the Theatre Royal, Bury. The opera is in two acts and scored for eight singers (playing 14 characters) with a chamber ensemble of twelve players.

Other works from the 1990s include Sextet - A Wild Garden (scored for mixed ensemble), which was premiered by Concorde in Dublin 1997; String Quartet 2 was commissioned, and premiered, in London, by the International String Quartet Competition in 1997; On the Wind (for a cappella choir) was commissioned and first performed by Cantique, in Cork in 1997; and Duo Concertante (1999), for solo violin and viola and orchestra, was commissioned and premiered by the Northern Sinfonia in March 2000. Since 2000, LeFanu's music has been published by Edition Peters.



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