The following is excerpted from the British Library here 

By the early 1950s Lutyens’s hectic professional life, her frequent periods of separation from Edward, and the constant guilt and concern about her children, all took their toll. She had fallen into the habit of drinking to cope with her difficulties, and by this time was an alcoholic and on the point of a full nervous breakdown. After successful medical treatment in 1952 she underwent a complete re-evaluation of her work and gave up drinking altogether for several decades.

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String Quartet no.6, op. 25, Elisabeth Lutyens, 1952

A vital breakthrough came with her Sixth String Quartet, op. 25, in 1952. The composition of the quartet was intimately connected to a conversation Lutyens had had with her friend, the artist Francis Bacon. Bacon told Lutyens that he always painted very quickly and very instinctively when he wanted to create something which would have a violent impact on the nerves. Excited by this description, she wrote her quartet in one twelve-hour sitting, totally immersed in the task at hand. The result is a concise work of great power, one which exhibits a degree of clarity and rhythmic freedom which had not really been attained in previous quartets. As she stated, ‘with this work I at last began to find my own style.’

The Quartet was followed by one of her most remarkable and best known works, her Motet op. 27 (1953) for unaccompanied chorus with words taken from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. The piece was written in response to a commission from William Glock. He later applauded the Motet for having achieved an ideal balance ‘between its impersonal aspect and its illustrative aspect,’ and memorably described the music as being ‘a kind of geometry answering to Wittgenstein’s philosophical thought.’ (Glock, ‘A Tribute to Elisabeth Lutyens,’ script of BBC Radio 3 broadcast of 15 December 1983, British Library, Add. 71114, f. 220).

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Tone rows for ‘Wittgenstein’ Motet, Elisabeth Lutyens, 1953

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