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Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850 - 1927)

My first introduction to the music of Luise Adolpha Le Beau, was her Piano Concerto - an attractive work with a clear sense of individuality. One of those works that has a good sense of direction but includes surprising twists to delight the ear. The manuscripts of her works and printed editions are held by the Stadtsbibliothek in Berlin where I had spent happy summer days a few years ago studying her orchestral scores. The one thing that I knew for certain about Le Beau was that she had written nothing for flute - or had she? Suddenly my research for this edition revealed a source previously unknown to me that said she had composed a Sevillana for flute and piano and a Canon for flute, violin & piano. I was amazed and delighted and went scurrying back to Berlin. My excitement was as nothing compared to the stir that my discovery caused there. However, disappointingly, my subsequent research proved that the author of the book had been mistaken and that Sevillana was the work of an entirely different [male] composer who happened to share the same surname. At the same time, I had tracked down a copy of Canon lodged in the library of the Royal Academy of Music where it is catalogued as 96.2751 LE BEAU [canon for two flutes & piano]. However,there also I found myself on the wrong path since the flute part is merely a transcription of the original violin part by A.Maechtle, who self evidently was not a flute player!
However, I decided to stay with it as the Canon [opus 38] is a pleasant work and would, I suggest serve as a useful study in the art of canon for students, and could provide a GCSE topic or item for practical performance, as well as being good to play. I have made a very few alterations to the central section of Herr Maechtle’s adaptation, in order to make it more suited to the flute [Herr Maechtle does not seem, for instance, to have considered the possibility that the flute player might need to breathe] and I have transposed the 2nd violin part so that it may be played by an alto flute as well as leaving the original for a player of an instrument in C.
Canon is structured in three sections. The first section, is in the key of E minor and gives the first flute the lead with the alto flute trundling along behind imitating at the interval of an octave and in a strict canon the antics of its loftier companion. Alongside the piano left hand makes an unreliable suggestion of imitation whilst the right hand maps out the chords in a never ceasing flow of arpeggios. In the central second section the canon is ceased and the music sets out in a new direction, shifting to the subdominant major in which tonality the alto flute sings a new melody to which the first flute renders a flowing accompaniment and the piano marks out the chords in a characteristic, heartbeat type rhythm. Finally the canon returns marking the third section and final section as it reprises the first section with a short coda. The work can be heard in full at

Luise Adolpha Le Beau was born in Germany on April 25th 1850 and her life is well documented in the autobiography she wrote in 1910 during a stay in Italy. She was the only child of well educated and musically knowledgeable parents who, despite the social norms of the time, did their best to foster their daughter’s obvious talents. Luise was an able and gifted pianist and they paid for her to study with Clara Schumann although the lessons were quickly terminated when it became clear that the two strong willed women did not see eye-to-eye and that the pupil-teacher relationship was rapidly deteriorating into an explosively bad situation. Subsequent composition lessons with Kalliwoda were more successful as were those with Rheinberger to whom she had been recommended by Hans von Bülow. Rheinberger praised the ‘masculinity’ in her music but Le Beau ceased lessons with him as she increasingly looked toward the style of more modern composers such as Wagner.
With her parents continuing to give her financial support and accompanying her on concert tours, Le Beau began to achieve considerable international public recognition, especially in Italy. Like Ethel Smyth, her resolve and effort to make a career in a business that was entirely male dominated helped pave the way for later generations of female composers. She frequently met with prejudice and discrimination, exemplified perhaps most aptly by the occasion in 1882, when her set of pieces for cello and piano [op.24] won first prize in an international composing competition. The certificate, which had automatically been penned with the words Herr [Mr.] speedily had to be altered to give her correct title Fraulein [Miss]. In the nineteenth century it was still considered a social mores for a woman to be a professional musician. It was only Le Beau’s lack of a husband and the forward-thinking attitude of her parents that allowed her to have such a career but even so she described it as an exhausting existence of touring and trying to achieve recognition in ‘a man's world’. She gave piano recitals consisting of her own compositions as well as of music by Bach, Scarlatti, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Schumann etc. She composed works for piano as well as operas, oratorios, chamber music and orchestral works. She worked as a music critic for the ‘Allgemeine Deutsche Musik-Zeitung’ and taught music theory to the ‘daughters of the educated classes’, spent long hours promoting her music and scarcely ever gave herself a rest. In fact she noted that she made November 27th 1907 a special day - it was the 40th anniversary of her first recital and she celebrated the occasion by taking the day off. However, despite all her efforts, the success that she achieved was always transitory and, after the death of her parents, she moved back to Baden-Baden, withdrew from public life and died forgotten on July 17th 1927, aged 77 years. However her name lives on in the city of Baden-Baden where as a memorial her name has been given to the music library.
©Roz Trübger 2014