Lady Read, musician; born Aberdeen, March 27, 1905, died London, March 10, 1996

MARGARET Read, nee Ludwig, the second wife of the poet and art critic Sir Herbert Read, was a most original and talented person in her own right. She was an outstanding musician, a virtuoso on the viola, and at one time a lecturer under the renowned Donald Francis Tovey at Edinburgh University.

After her marriage to Herbert Read, she spent a number of years living in the Bohemian milieu of Modernist poets and painters in the south of England, but in 1949 went to live in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and four children.

Margaret Ludwig was born on March 27, 1905, in Aberdeen. Her childhood home was at 78 Beaconsfield Place. Both of her parents were descended from Germans who had emigrated to Scotland in the nineteenth century from Saxony, the Baltic, and Hamburg, but had since intermarried with Scottish, Irish, and Italians: a great uncle of Margaret Ludwig was the Catholic Canon Tochetti.

Her father was raised as a Catholic but marked his rejection of that faith as a young man by placing a Protestant Bible in his local Catholic church.

The overwhelming passion of the Ludwigs and their eight children was music. A childhood friend, Janet Grierson, describes in an unpublished memoir listening to the young Margaret play flawlessly the first page of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata by heart, having learned it by ear from listening to her mother's performance. She was small, dark, and imperious, consciously Napoleonic in appearance and demeanour. Her family name was ``Golly''. Later, she was known as ``Ludo''.

Graduating from Edinburgh University with a first class degree, Ludwig went to study music in Cologne. There she was so impressed by Rhineland Catholicism that she was received into the Catholic Church upon her return to Edinburgh to work as a lecturer under Professor Tovey at the university.

Through her childhood friend Grierson, whose father, Herbert Grierson, was now the Regius Professor of English at the university, Ludwig received an invitation to one of the exclusive lunches given at 9 Whitehouse Terrace, Morningside, by Andre Raffalovich, a rich Russian Jew who in his youth had been the lover of John Gray, himself the friend of Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley. Gray was now a Catholic Canon and parish priest of St Peter's, Morningside.

At this lunch, Ludwig met and fell in love with the newly-appointed Professor of Fine Art, Herbert Read. He was married with a 10-year-old child. Despite her recent conversion, the two ran off to London, causing a scandal in Edinburgh that was remembered many decades later.

In London they lived in a studio in Hampstead found for them by Read's friends, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. Henry Moore lived nearby, as did other artists making their way from the turmoil on the Continent to the safe haven of the United States - Walter Gropius, Piet Mondrian, and Naum Gabo, all of whom became the Reads' friends.

Both Margaret Ludwig and Herbert Read were glad to escape from the respectable confines of Edinburgh at this period, though neither was wholly at ease with the manners and morals of this Bohemian circle. During the war they moved to a house built in the suburbs of London where Read's friend, T S Eliot, kept a suitcase of clothes in case his wardrobe should be destroyed by a bomb.

In 1949, Read's longing to return to his roots in North Yorkshire was finally realised: they bought a large rectory at Stonegrave and this became their home. Read would go to London every other week to work as a publisher, while his wife raised her three sons and one daughter, and threw herself into the somewhat meagre musical life of the region.

Her greatest consolation for this rural isolation - a considerable sacrifice for someone with such a gregarious nature - was the community of Benedictine monks at the nearby Abbey of Ampleforth. A number of musical monks became her friends.

Never at ease with the English, and particularly baffled by the reserve of the local gentry, she nevertheless became a formidable figure in the county, particularly after she had persuaded her husband to accept a knighthood and so became Lady Read.

Stonegrave House, with Herbert Read's collection of modern painting and sculpture, and her own assembly of antique furniture for which she had an exceptional eye, became a centre of cultural interest in the region, visited by many when it was opened each year to raise money for the Red Cross.

Her unusual charm, exercised on even the most cursory of acquaintances, and a sharp wit that frequently caused consternation in her guests, qualities which today would almost certainly have been harnessed to a career of some kind, were devoted to the enhancement of her family and friends.

After Read's death in 1968, she remained at Stonegrave until 1993 when she moved to a Catholic convent in London. It was there that she died on March 10.