Elinor Remick Warren

Elinor Remick Warren

1900 - 1991

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Elinor Remick Warren trained as a pianist and became a highly coveted recital partner, but she saw herself first and foremost as a composer. Her art songs were regularly performed by artists like Kirsten Flagstad, Bidu Sayão, Richard Crooks and Lawrence Tibbett.

About

Elinor Remick Warren has been described by musicologist Christine Ammer as the “only woman among the group of prominent American neo-Romanticists that includes Howard Hansen, Samuel Barber, and Gian Carlo Menotti.” Warren created more than 200 works, remaining active up until her death at age 91. In 2000, the Elinor Remick Warren Society, in conjunction with the Library of Congress, sponsored a Centenary Celebration, featuring a lecture, symposium and recital, as well as the presentation of the Warren Collection to the Library of Congress.

Warren was the only child of well-trained musical parents. Her mother was a pianist whose teacher had studied with Franz Liszt, and her father, who earned a living as a businessman, was an amateur tenor and President of the Orpheus Club, a chorus in Los Angeles. By the age of three, Warren was able to plunk out melodies at the piano, and at age five she penned her first composition, the “Forget-Me-Not Waltz” for piano. After local musical training and a year of study at Mills College in Oakland, Warren moved to New York in 1920 to study accompaniment and the art song with Frank LaForge, and orchestration and counterpoint with Clarence Dickinson. By 1922, Warren’s compositions were appearing in the catalogues of several music publishers, including G. Schirmer, Theodore Presser, and Carl Fischer.

At LaForge’s suggestion, Warren began working as a touring accompanist for the Metropolitan Opera singers whom LaForge knew and coached. From 1921 to the early 1940’s, Warren toured the country and collaborated primarily with Florence Easton, but she also had the opportunity to work with Richard Crooks, Lawrence Tibbett, Lucrezia Bori, Margaret Matzenauer, and Grete Stueckgold, who came to program Warren’s songs in their recitals. During one of her summer visits to Los Angeles, Warren met a doctor, whom she married in 1925. They had a son, James, born in 1928, but the marriage ended in divorce after the baby’s birth.

In 1936, Warren’s The Harp Weaver, a large-scale work for women’s chorus, orchestra, and baritone soloist, premiered at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Antonia Brico. The work’s successful debut brought Warren critical attention as a composer in the larger orchestral forms. That same year Warren married Z. Wayne Griffin, a radio, film, and television producer and businessman. The couple remained together until Griffin’s death in 1981. They had two children: a son, Wayne, born in 1938, and a daughter, Elayne, born in 1940.

Inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, Warren composed a large-scale choral symphony to the text in 1936. Originally titled The Passing of King Arthur, it was renamed The Legend of King Arthur when Warren revised the work in 1974. The original work was premiered in 1940 by Alfred Coates and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra; its success secured Warren’s international reputation, and The Legend of King Arthur remains her best-known large work, partly due to revivals by important conductors including Pierre Monteux, John Barbirolli, André Kostelanetz, Roger Wagner, Alfred Wallenstein, and Richard Hickox.

Warren produced some of her most important works during the 1940’s and 50’s, including The Crystal Lake (1946), Singing Earth (1950, revised 1978), and Along the Western Shore (1954). All of these were influenced by the American West, where Warren spent most of her life. She also turned to mystical subjects for inspiration, in works such as The Harp Weaver and The Legend of King Arthur, as well as The Sleeping Beauty (1941). In 1963, Warren was commissioned by Roger Wagner to write a requiem; after several years of concentrated work she completed the piece in 1966. The Requiem received much praise from the press, and was considered by Patterson Greene of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner to be a “devout, quietly intense work…a dignified, meditative and distinguished contribution to choral literature.”

Warren died on April 27, 1991, survived by her daughter, two sons, and five grandchildren. The Elinor Remick Warren Society was founded in 1996 to help perpetuate her legacy and promote her music.

--Stephanie Poxon, Ph.D.

Songs & Song Collections BY Warren (entered to date)

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