LAVATER, LOUIS ISIDORE (1867-1953), composer, musician and writer, was born on 2
March 1867 at St Kilda, Melbourne, eldest child of George Theodore Adams Lavater,
civil servant, and his English-born wife Emily Challinor, née Swindells. His
Swiss-born father had migrated to Victoria after the 1851 gold rush. He was
educated at St Kilda Grammar School, Wesley College and the University of
Melbourne where in 1884 he began to study medicine, later abandoning it for music,
a subject dearer to his heart although he did not complete his degree.
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Australian Dictionary of Biography
Louis Lavater wrote much orchestral, choral, and chamber music, several books of poetry, and numerous short stories. His father was G.T.A. (George Theodore Adams) Lavater, a civil servant who had a number of his own songs and dance music published in the nineteenth century. Having been schooled in Melbourne, Lavater enrolled in a medical degree at the University of Melbourne in 1884 but did not finish, instead following his love of music.
From 1885 Lavater worked in a bank, and in 1888 was secretary to the orchestral committee of the Melbourne Centenial Exhibition. In 1892 he moved to Colac where he established a music school, produced operas, organised choirs, and operated a lending library of sheet music. He returned to Melbourne in 1914 and made a precarious living from music, assisted by a one-pound pension from the Commonwealth Literary Fund. Nevertheless, his reputation remained stable and he was often asked as a judge for musical competions. He became a member of many music, artistic and literary clubs and societies. He held executive positions of the British Music Society, Association of Music Teachers of Victoria, and Musical Society of Victoria. He was a driving force behind the establishment of the Guild of Australian Composers in 1935.
Although Lavater was highly prolific in his output of compositions, many remained in manuscript form only and they never gained him any significant financial rewards. Among his works are a ballet suite, Nina, which was performed in London, and The Licentiate Pianist's Handbook. His vocal works include hymns for Australia, settings of his own poetry and others, including some by AB Paterson, and arrangements of operatic arias and hymn tunes. In lamenting his passing, the journal Canon regretted the absence of any national recognition for his promotion of arts in Australia.