Here she took piano lessons, but was advised by her teacher to study at the Royal College of Music, London, which she duly did from the age of sixteen. Her teachers included Arthur Alexander (piano) and Charles Wood and Ralph Vaughan Williams (musical composition). Her music developed in a way that rapidly attracted the attention of the most distinguished musicians of the day, including Sir Henry Wood, Sir Donald Tovey and Gustav Holst. Here she became interested in the contemporary music of Central Europe, particularly Bartók, Berg and Janáček. On the recommendation of Vaughan Williams, Maconchy undertook further study in Prague, where her piano concerto was premiered in 1930 by Erwin Schulhoff, the same year in which Henry Wood premiered her orchestral piece The Land, and in which she married William LeFanu (1904-1995). In 1932 Maconchy developed tuberculosis.
She moved to the country lived entirely outdoors and cured herself by will-power. She received a CBE in 1977. The last of her celebrated string quartets, the thirteenth (subtitled Quartetto Corto) was written in 1984. Maconchy was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1987. Known to her friends as Betty LeFanu she lived for many years in Boreham, Essex.
Throughout her life she somehow managed to give full-time attention to both her composing and her family, and at the same time, pursue an active professional life in which she devoted herself to helping other composers. She was Chair of the Composers Guild and of SPNM (succeeding Benjamin Britten as President). In her old age and failing health many musicians wrote to her saying how she had inspired them: by her grace, her sense of fun, her courage and single-mindedness, but above all -- by her music. The composer Nicola LeFanu -- the second of Maconchy's two daughters with William LeFanu -- dedicated her String Quartet No 2 (1977) to the memory of her parents. Read more on Last.fm.
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