Exploring the Dramatic Potential of Liza Lehmann’s Song Cycles: An Analysis of In Memoriam

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English composer Liza Lehmann (1862-1918) ranks among the major songwriters of the English Musical Renaissance, due mainly to her song cycles, notably In a Persian Garden (1896), which propelled her to immediate international success. Her next cycle, In Memoriam (1899), based on Alfred Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam A.H.H., received less critical enthusiasm, motivating Lehmann to pursue more lighthearted sources for her music. Despite the mixed reviews and scattered performance history of In Memoriam, singers of high esteem, both current and past, have advocated for Lehmann’s evocative setting. This project will comprise two parts. The first will provide a brief review of the historical background of Lehmann and the genesis of Tennyson’s In Memoriam A.H.H. The second addresses performance issues through musical analysis of In Memoriam, investigating three main points: (1) the adaptation of the text, which applied a narrative to Tennyson’s lyric poetry; (2) the structure of the cycle, unique in its implementation of theatrical organization; and finally, (3) motivic analysis, whereby thematic materials return and transform throughout the piece. The analysis of In Memoriam supplements current research with further insight into Liza Lehmann’s innovations as a composer, raises interest in the theatrical potential of all her cycles, and supplies performers with information so they may successfully produce the piece in the concert hall.

Liza Lehmann