English composer of Irish descent. Several of her works were performed abroad and she had particular success in Belgium and eastern Europe. She composed a great deal of chamber music, including a remarkable series of thirteen string quartets, and three one-act operas, The Sofa (1957), The Departure (1961), and The Three Strangers (1967).
She was born at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. She studied composition under Vaughan Williams and Charles Wood, and piano under Arthur Alexander at the Royal College of Music in London. Later she went to Prague on a Blumenthal scholarship, where she studied under Karel Jirák in Prague. She married William LeFanu, who translated poems by the Greek poet Anacreon for her. She was awarded the Daily Telegraph medal for chamber music in 1933, and a medal for distinguished service to chamber music from the Worshipful Company of Musicians in 1970. Her And Death Shall Have No Dominion, for chorus and brass, was performed at the Three Choirs Festival in 1969. The composer Nicola LeFanu is her daughter.
WorksOperaThe Sofa (1957), The Departure (1961), and The Three Strangers (1967): performed as a trilogy at Middlesbrough 1977.
BalletGreat Agrippa (from Hofmann's ‘Shock-headed Peter’) and The Little Red Shoes (after Andersen).
Choral two motets for double chorus (Donne); The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo (Gerard Manley Hopkins) for chorus and chamber orchestra (1978).
Orchestral symphony and suites for orchestra The Land (on a poem by Vita Sackville-West) and Puck; piano concerto (1930), violin concerto (1963), concertino for clarinet; Samson at the Gates of Gaza for voice and orchestra; Sinfonietta (1976), Little Symphony (1981), Music for Strings (1983).
Chamber 13 string quartets (1933–85), string trio, Prelude Interlude and Fugue for two violins.
Other song-cycle The Garland (Anacreon).
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