She was born Elisabetha Nina Mary Frederica Lehmann in London. Her father was the German painter Rudolf Lehmann and her mother was Amelia (A.L.) Chambers, a music teacher, composer and arranger. Liza "grew up in an intellectual and artistic atmosphere" (Baker, 1992, p. 1030) and lived in Germany, France, and Italy in her early years. She studied singing in London with both Alberto Randegger and Jenny Lind, and her composition teachers included Hamish MacCunn in London, Niels Raunkilde in Rome, and Wilhelm Freudenberg in Wiesbaden.
On 23 November 1885, she made her singing debut at a Monday Popular Concert at St James's Hall, and spent the next nine years performing many important concert engagements in England. She received encouragement from important European musicians such as Joseph Joachim and Clara Schumann.
She retired from the stage after a final concert at St James's Hall on 14 July 1894, and married the composer and painter Herbert Bedford. The couple's grandsons include the conductor Steuart Bedford and the composer David Bedford. For the rest of her life she concentrated on composing music. She completed one of her best known works two years later, in 1896, the song cycle for four voices and piano titled In a Persian Garden, settings of selected quatrains from Edward FitzGerald’s version of the Rubāiyāt of Omar Khayyām. She composed many more song cycles including The Daisy Chain and an In Memoriam based on Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem. She also became known for her parlour songs and other works in the following years.
In 1904 she was commissioned by Frank Curzon to compose the score for the Edwardian musical comedy Sergeant Brue with a libretto by Owen Hall and lyrics by James Hickory Wood. The piece was a success, but Lehmann was unhappy that Curzon added other composers' music to her score. Although she refused to write any further musicals, Lehmann composed the score for a comic opera adaptation of The Vicar of Wakefield in 1906, with a libretto by Laurence Housman. This piece was a modest success but did not lead to further comic operas.
In 1910, Lehmann made a tour of the United States, where she accompanied her own songs in recitals. She became the first president of the Society of Women Musicians in 1911 and 1912 and was a professor of singing at the GSM. She also wrote a voice study text, Practical Hints for Students of Singing. In 1916, Lehmann wrote the score for an opera, Everyman, which was produced by the Beecham Opera Company.
Lehmann and Maude Valerie White were England's foremost female composers of songs at the beginning of the 20th century. Although they both composed solo settings of serious texts, they excelled in setting lighter material. Some of Lehmann's compositional practices, such as her frequent use for four-voice cycles and writing piano links between songs, were consistent with her time, yet her pieces were inventive; they are now often overlooked and disregarded. She wrote many children's songs, ranging from the sweet and trivial "There are fairies at the bottom of our garden" to the melodically and harmonically passionate "Stars" in The Daisy-Chain. Her tenor song "Ah, moon of my delight" from In a Persian Garden is operatic.
- Seargeant Brue, musical farce (London, 14 June 1904)
- The Vicar of Wakefield, light opera (Manchester, 12 November 1906)
- Everyman, 1-act opera (London, 28 December 1915)
Vocal with orchestra
- Young Lochinvar, text by Walter Scott, baritone, chorus, and orchestra (1898)
- Endymion, text by Longfellow, soprano and orchestra (1899)
- Once Upon a Time, cantata (London, 22 February 1903)
- The Golden Threshold, text by S. Naidu, S, A, T, Bar, chorus, and orchestra (1906)
- Leaves from Ossian, cantata (1909)
Vocal quartets with piano
- In a Persian Garden (E. FitzGerald, after O. Khayyām) (1896)
- The Daisy-Chain (L. Alma-Tadema, R.L. Stevenson and others) (1900)
- More Daisies (1902)
- Nonsense Songs (from L. Carroll: Alice in Wonderland) (1908)
- Breton Folk-Songs (F.M. Gostling) (1909)
- Prairie Pictures (Lehmann) (1911)
- Parody Pie (1914)
Songs for solo voice
- Mirage (H. Malesh) (1894)
- Nine English Songs (1895)
- Eight German Songs (1888)
- Twelve German Songs (1889)
- In memoriam (Tennyson) (1899)
- Cameos: Five Greek Love-Songs (1901)
- Five French Songs (G. Boutelleau, F. Plessis) (1901)
- To a Little Red Spider (L.A. Cunnington) (1903)
- The Life of a Rose (L. Lehmann) (1905)
- Bird Songs (A.S.) (1907)
- Mr. Coggs and Other Songs for Children (E.V. Lucas) (1908)
- Liza Lehmann Album (1909)
- Five Little Love Songs (C. Fabbri) (1910)
- Songs of a ‘Flapper’ (Lehmann) (1911)
- Cowboy Ballads (J.A. Lomax) (1912)
- The Well of Sorrow (H. Vacaresco: The Bard of the Dimbovitza) (1912)
- Five Tenor Songs (1913)
- Hips and Haws (M. Radclyffe Hall) (1913)
- Songs of Good Luck (Superstitions) (H. Taylor) (1913)
- Magdalen at Michael’s Gate (H. Kingsley) (1913)
- The Poet and the Nightingale (J.T. White) (1914)
- The Lily of a Day (Jonson), 1917
- There are Fairies at the Bottom of Our Garden (R. Fyleman), 1917
- When I am Dead, My Dearest (C. Rossetti), 1918
- Three Songs for Low Voice (Meredith, Browning) (1922)
Other vocal works
- Music, When Soft Voices Die (Percy Bysshe Shelley), voice and piano
- The Secrets of the Heart (H. Austin Dobson), soprano, alto, and piano (1895)
- Good-Night, Babette! (Austin Dobson), soprano, baritone, violin, ‘cello, and piano (1898)
- The Eternal Feminine (monologue, L. Eldée) (1902)
- Songs of Love and Spring (E. Geibel), alto, baritone, and piano (1903)
- The Happy Prince (recitation, O. Wilde) (1908)
- Four Cautionary Tales and a Moral (H. Belloc), two voices and piano (1909)
- Four Shakespearean Part-Songs (1911)
- The Selfish Giant (recitation, Wilde), 1911
- The High Tide (recitation, J. Ingelow) (1912)
- Behind the Nightlight (J. Maude, N. Price) (1913)
- Three Snow Songs (Lehmann), solo voice, piano, organ, female chorus (1914)
- Romantic Suite, violin and piano (1903)
- Cobweb Castle, piano solo (1908)
- The Life of Liza Lehmann, by Herself (T Fisher Unwin, London, 1919)
- Practical Hints for Students of Singing
- Liza Lehmann Biography at www.naxos.com a biography of Liza Lehmann
- Liza Lehmannn at British Theatre Guide
- Sheet music for "There are Fairies at the Bottom of Our Garden", Chappell & Co., Ltd., 1917.
- "Lehman, Liza". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
- "Lehmann, Liza". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). 1922.
- Baker, Theodore (1992), "Lehmann, Liza", in Slonimsky, Nicolas, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Eighth Edition, New York: Schirmer Books, pp. 1030–1031, ISBN 0-02-872415-1.
- Banfield, Stephen. "Liza Lehmann", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed 3 June 2008), grovemusic.com (subscription access).
- Banfield, Stephen (1995), "Lehmann, Liza", in Sadie, Julie Anne & Rhian Samuel, The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers, New York: W. W. Norton, pp. 275–277, ISBN 0-333-51598-6.
- Stern, Susan (1978), Women Composers: A Handbook, Metuchen, New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., pp. p. 109, ISBN 0-8108-1138-3