Else Headlam-Morley Collection

Scope and Content

Manuscript and printed scores of Lady Headlam-Morley's own compositions, correspondence, concert programmes, posters and press cuttings, and other papers and photographs.

Papers of close friend Freida C.B. Backhaus (1893-1968), wife of concert director (Georg) Albert Backhaus (1880-1945) and papers of their son (Felix) C. Georg Backhaus (1921-1942); also papers of Wilhelm and pianist Alma Backhaus, and the relatedStrelock family.

Administrative / Biographical History

Elisabeth Charlotta Henrietta Ernestina Headlam-Morley (ne Sonntag) was born at Luneburg on 18 September 1865. Known as Else, she was the youngest daughter of Dr. August Sonntag. She learnt the violin from a former pupil of Friedrich Wieck andthe piano from her eldest sister Hedwig (Heidi), who was also a pupil of Wieck, and at the age of seven she wrote her first composition. After her family's move to Dresden, she played at the musical evenings given by Marie Wieck and ClaraSchumann.

When she was thirteen she was accepted as a pupil by Liszt, and studied with him at Weimar for five years, until his death in 1886, and afterwards with Franz Xaver Scharwenka in Berlin. Among Liszt's older pupils whom she knew at Weimar wereAlfred Reisenauer, Alexander Siloti, Emil Sauer and Arthur Friedheim. She travelled with Liszt to Budapest and appeared as a pianist there and in Vienna under Julius Epstein. She also studied harmony etc. with Heinrich Schulz-Beuthen. In 1892 shemarried James Wycliffe Headlam-Morley, who was knighted in 1929 for his work as historical adviser to the Foreign Office.

After her marriage, Else Headlam-Morley devoted her time increasingly to composition. She composed two operas Leonarda and Die Tulpen , and numerous songs and works for piano and orchestra. Leonarda, composed in 1925, was staged in Salzburg and inInnsbruck, under Dr. Nicholai van der Pals, and other performances of her music took place in the twenties and thirties in Berlin with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra under Dr. Ernst Kunwald, in Munich, Leipzig and Stuttgart, at the Queen's Hall inLondon, and in Bournemouth under Sir Dan Godfrey. Leonarda received concert performances in London in 1950 and in Aachen in 1962. Lady Headlam-Morley died on 25 February 1950.


Roughly grouped in the following categories:

Leonarda; other compositions of Lady Headlam-Morley; letters to her from her children, Kenneth A.S. Headlam-Morley (1901-1982), Secretary, the Iron and Steel Institute 1933-1967, and Professor Agnes Headlam-Morley(1902-1986), historian; other correspondence; press cuttings, programmes, material relating to Sir Dan Godfrey, miscellanea.

Access Information

Open for consulation.

Acquisition Information

Presented by Mrs Lorna Headlam-Morley, 1999 (accession Misc.1999/2000:2); and Susanna Bewick and Peter Headlam-Morley, 2022 (Misc.2021/22:71).

Other Finding Aids

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assistwhere possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

The collection will be appraised as sorting and listing proceeds.