In memory of Elizabeth Langford (1929-2009)


The basic facts of Betty’s life can quickly be told. She was born in London in 1929; her father a professional violinist, her mother a professional singer. In 1952 she married Tamas Rajna, a Hungarian who is now Professor of Music at the University of Cape Town. The marriage was dissolved, but Betty and Tommy remained good friends, and he was he last person with whom she spoke by telephone from the hospice before she died.

Betty started violin lessons with her father at the age of 3 and eventually graduated from the Royal College of Music in London. Later, she went to Switzerland to continue her studies with Professor Max Rostal, who variously praised her violin technique but deplored her posture. She was for a time sub-leader of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. However, she mainly devoted herself to chamber music, notably as a member of the -Macnaghten String Quartet. Her violin-piano partnership with Anthony Green (who deeply regrets being unable to be here today) was formed in 1965. They were finalists in the BBC Beethoven Competition in 1969 and over a period of more then 40 years gave many recitals in London, Brussels and many other European cities.

At this point, please forgive a personal digression which illustrates several aspects of Betty’s character. I first met Betty in about 1947. She was 18 and I was 8, a violin pupil of her father. She had taken the trouble to come and hear me perform some little Grade 2 piece at a minor music festival in a London suburb. She introduced herself, and told me that I had played well, but suggested a couple of things that I might like to consider ‘working on’. I was bursting with pride that I had apparently impressed this lordly college student. It may also have been my first indication that girls eventually emerged from their ‘soppy’ phase. In time, Betty became for me a sort of honorary big sister (although I always referred to her as ‘cousin’), and during the succeeding 60 years I have remained for her the honorary kid brother – who might eventually grow up but always showed lamentably few signs of doing so. Suffice it to say, that whenever some childhood or adolescent crisis occurred, Betty was always ‘there’ – the loyal friend, and that, together with immense admiration for her courage, is how I shall always remember her, with affection and deep gratitude.

During the 1960’s, Betty (as had been foreseen by Rostal) suffered increasingly from severe pain when playing her violin, a circumstance which eventually lead to her parallel career as a distinguished practitioner and teacher of the Alexander Technique.

I shall now hand over to Monique, in respect of whom Betty wrote recently in a letter to me: “Monique is a friend in a million. Whatever I say about how good she is would be a colossal understatement.”

Michael Blackstaff


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