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 has composed around one hundred works for a variety of mediums. Her music is published by Edition Peters and by Novello and has been widely played, broadcast and recorded. She has composed eight operas, which have been staged in UK, Ireland and USA: Dawnpath (New Opera Company, London, 1977), The Story of Mary O’Neill, a radio opera, libretto Sally McInerney, (BBC, 1987), The Green Children, a children’s opera, libretto Kevin Crossley-Holland, (Kings Lynn Festival, 1990), Blood Wedding, libretto Deborah Levy (WPT, London 1992), The Wildman, libretto Crossley-Holland, (Aldeburgh Festival, 1995), Light Passing, libretto John Edmonds, (BBC/NCEM, York, 2004), Dream Hunter, libretto John Fuller (Lontano, Wales 2011, London 2012) and Tokaido Road, a Journey after Hiroshige, libretto Nancy Gaffield, (Okeanos, Cheltenham Festival, July 2014).

She was born in England in 1947 to Irish parents; her mother was the composer Elizabeth Maconchy. LeFanu studied at Oxford, RCM and Harvard. She is active in many aspects of the musical profession and was Professor of Music at University of York, 1994-2008.

In April 2017 she celebrated her seventieth birthday, and was BBC Radio 3 ’Composer of the Week’. 2017 also saw premieres of five new works, including ‘The Crimson Bird’ a dramatic scena, text John Fuller; commissioned by RPS for BBCSO with Rachel Nicholls, soprano. The cantata ‘St Hilda of Whitby’, text Wendy Cope, was premiered in February 2018.

In 2020 a CD with four of her major orchestral pieces was released by NMC, supported by a grant from the PRSF. It features the RTE NSO and the BBCSO.

Recent premieres include LeFanu’s new work for saxophone orchestra In The Forests of the Night, premiered in New York and toured in Germany and UK; the Quintet for strings; After Lindisfarne for solo horn; Triptych for baritone and chamber orchestra (text, Rowan Williams), Broadwood Bagatelles for clavichord; The Forest, The Strand, The Sea for solo piano; String Quartet no.5 and After Ferrara for horn, violin and cello.



2nd July 2024

Royal College ofMusic
Kyle Horch
Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall, Royal College of Music, London, United Kingdom