William Walton (1902-1983)

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01Bright Young Thing2010020120120206

Donald Macleod on how Walton became known as the 1920s' most precocious British composer.

William Walton is perhaps best defined by a series of paradoxes: the pillar of the British Musical Establishment who lived in voluntary exile; the king of the grand, filmic gesture who harboured deep insecurity; the socialite and ladies' man who often preferred to be alone. Walton hid himself behind an acerbic wit- a statement which has also been made about his writing. Donald Macleod follows him through the distinct eras of his life and explores the many sides to the man and his music.

Snatched by the Sitwells from what they saw as an ignominious future as a schoolteacher in Oldham, William Walton became known in London as the most precocious British composer of the 1920's. Donald Macleod delves into the curious world with which Walton became involved.

PROMO NOTE

DESCRIPTION

Façade

Reciters: Peter Pears & Edith Sitwell

English Opera Group Ensemble

Conductor: Anthony Collins

ALTO ALC 1026

The Winds

Felicity Lott: Soprano

Graham Johnson: Piano

COLLINS 14932 TRACK 1

Siesta

English Northern Sinfonia

Conductor: David Lloyd-Jones

NAXOS 8.555868 Track 8

Portsmouth Point

London Symphony Orchestra

Conductor: Andre Previn

EMI 0777 7 64723 2 4 Track 11.

01Luck And The London Set20150803
01Luck And The London Set20150803

William Walton's journey from modest roots to being at the heart of the 1920s London set.

Donald Macleod looks at William Walton's modest roots and how his talent and some opportune meetings saw him placed right at the heart of the social scene of 1920s London.

Born in Oldham, when the town was the biggest spinning centre in the world, it was William Walton's vocal talents that offered him the opportunity to leave. His chance was almost blown by his father who went on a pub crawl the night before the potentially life changing audition.

Whilst studying music at Oxford, Walton had the fortune to meet a certain Sacheverell Sitwell. It was the start of a long friendship with famously flamboyant and eccentric Sitwell clan; Sacherverell and his siblings brought Walton into their social circle and introduced him to the stars of the London set. The young composer threw himself into this world and enjoyed the attention of various women, not always happily. Lauded by the critics in his mid-twenties after the premiere of Façade, William Walton later composed a stunning Viola Concerto that placed him as the leading composer of the day.

Walton: Façade - an entertainment (Fanfare - hornpipe)

Peter Pears, vocalist

Anthony Collins, conductor

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Walton: Piano Quartet 4th mvt, Allegro molto

Maggini String Quartet

Peter Donohoe, piano

Walton: Façade - an entertainment (excerpts)

Dame Edith Sitwell, vocalist

Walton: Portsmouth Point Overture

Bryden Thomson, conductor

Walton: Viola Concerto, 1st mvt, Andante comodo

Nigel Kennedy, viola

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

André Previn, conductor

Producer: Chris Howells.

02Happy Prince2010020220120207

Donald Macleod discovers how Walton became the pre-eminent British composer of the 1930s.

Once the slightly risque enfant terrible of the roaring 20's, Walton established himself as the pre-eminent British composer of the 1930's, garnering critical accaim and popular recognition. Donald Macleod plays some of the music which made his name.

Once the slightly risque enfant terrible of the roaring 20's, Walton established himself as the pre-eminent British composer of the 1930's, garnering critical acclaim and popular recognition.

Donald Macleod plays some of the music which made his name.

Viola Concerto: First Movement- Andante comodo

Viola: Nigel Kennedy

Conductor: Andre Previn

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

EMI CDC 7 49628 2 Track 1

Belshazzar's Feast

Thus spake Isaiah

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem

By the waters of Babylon

Baritone: John Shirley-Quirk

London Symphony Chorus

London Symphony Orchestra

EMI 0777 7 64723 2 4 Tracks 1-3

Escape Me Never

National Philharmonic Orchestra

Conductor: Bernard Herrmann

LONDON 448 954-2 Track 10

Symphony No.

1

Third movement- Andante con malinconia

Fourth Movement- Maestoso- Brioso ed ardentemente

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Conductor: Bryden Thomson

CHANDOS CHAN 8862.

02His Crowning Decade20150804
02His Crowning Decade20150804

Walton's greatest period: capped by a commission for the coronation of King George VI.

Donald Macleod looks at possibly William Walton's most successful period - a decade capped by a commission to compose for the coronation ceremony of King George VI.

By the end of the 1920s Walton had become the talk of London's music world, mixing easily with the city's cultural elite. After a variety of strange liaisons, Walton started to display a special fascination for high-born women. Progress on his new symphony was stalling, as was his latest relationship with a German baroness. By the time he had reached the final movement, a new girlfriend was on the scene and his music became much brighter and more festive.

The 1930s saw Walton producing choral works, orchestral pieces and film music of the very highest quality. He was at the height of his powers, and recognised as Britain's pre-eminent composer.

03Music For The Masses20150805

Donald Macleod explores Walton's war years.

As wartime loomed, in the summer of 1939, Walton composed what was to be his last work of significance until after the war. He described his first Violin Concerto as a declaration of love for his partner. Then, at the age 40, William Walton was conscripted. After a period of driving ambulances, rather badly it seems, he was exempted from military service so he could write music for propaganda films for the Ministry of Information.

One of his most popular works, the Spitfire Prelude and Fugue, was composed for the film, The First of the Few, about the story of Spitfire designer, RJ Mitchell. The film's popularity saw Walton being asked to provide music for a screen version of Shakespeare's Henry V starring Laurence Olivier, one of the most successful films in the history of British cinema. Olivier said, "The music has more guts, more attack and more venom than one would have thought was hidden in Walton's personality." The collaboration saw Walton and Olivier become life-long friends.

03Wartime Favourite2010020320120208

Donald Macleod how Walton's career took a new turn in the wartime era.

Walton's career took a new turn in the wartime era: his music was behind some of the greatest patriotic films ever made.

Donald Macleod looks at the composer's increasing national importance- and official recognition.

Went the day Well" Opening sequence from the film

Spitfire Prelude

Philharmonia Orchestra

Conductor: Sir William Walton

EMI 7243 5 65007 2 3 Track 13

Christopher Columbus: A Musical Journey

Scenes 8-12

Speaker (Christopher Columbus): Julian Glover

Speaker (Ironic Spirit/Herald): Jamie Glover

Speaker (Sailor/Voice): Philip Lloyd Holtam

Soprano (Isabella): Caroline Carragher

Mezzo (Beatriz): Jean Rigby

Tenor: Tom Randle

Baritone: Roderick Williams

Guitar: Craig Ogden

BBC National Chorus of Wales

BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Conductor: Richard Hickox

CHANDOS CHSA 5034 Tracks 22-32

Henry V- Scenes from the film

Prologue, Once more unto the breach, Agincourt, Epilogue

Speaker: Sir Laurence Olivier

EMI 7243 5 65007 2 3 Tracks 17,18, 24-28

Orb and Sceptre

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Conductor: Sir Adrian Boult

EMI 7243 5 65584 2 7 Track 13."

Walton's career took a new turn in the wartime era: his music was behind some of the greatest patriotic films ever made. Donald Macleod looks at the composer's increasing national importance- and official recognition.

04A Post-war Fight20150806

How Walton struggled to prove his place as Britain's pre-eminent composer post-WWII.

Donald Macleod explores how Walton struggled to prove his place as Britain's pre-eminent composer, as new rivals came to the fore.

The emergence of Benjamin Britten, whose dazzling successes culminated in 1945 with the opera Peter Grimes, saw Walton under pressure to prove that he hadn't fallen out of fashion. There was a suspicion that Walton's work during the war writing propaganda music for the Ministry of Information had dulled his powers. Walton started on a his first stage work reasoning that "I thought it was not a good thing for British opera to have only one opera by one composer".

As he fought to restore his reputation, Walton was also suffering great personal grief; the love of his life was terminally ill and her death would haunt him for the rest of his days.

04Ischian Labourer2010020420120209

Donald Macleod explores Walton's most difficult years as a composer.

Critical failure was something Walton had long foreseen: after the war came his most difficult years as a composer, although this was tempered by his blissful self-imposed exile, with his new wife, on the Italian island of Ischia.

Troilus and Cressida

Act 2 Sc 1(end of) and 2

Cressida: Judith Howarth

Troilus: Arthur Davies

English Northern Philharmonia

Conductor: Richard Hickox

CHANDOS CHAN 9370/1 Tracks 17-19

Cello Concerto

Cello: Tim Hugh

Conductor: Paul Daniel

NAXOS 8.554325 Tracks 4-6

Symphony No. 2

Last Movement: Passacaglia: Tema-Risoluto

NAXOS 8.553402 Track 7.

05Reputation Restored?20150807

Donald Macleod looks at William Walton's later years, a period that became a time of ease and prosperity for him.

Walton's reputation may have fallen in Britain, but he was still respected in the USA and enjoyed regular commissions from orchestras in New York, Washington, San Francisco and Chicago.

During the 1960s, Walton and his wife Susana built a stunning place of their own on the Mediterranean island of Ischia. In her words: "...it was now time to let the music speak for itself...". But still the British critics hammered his work. Suspicious of his jet-setting, expatriate life they could not bring themselves to appreciate his compositions as much as they had twenty years earlier. Not only did Walton clash with classical music journalists he also fell out with the BBC.

Eventually Walton's work was to become appreciated again. His achievements were recognised with gala concerts in London arranged for his 75th birthday and then his 80th, a year before he died in 1983.

05 LASTNational Treasure2010020520120210

Donald Macleod surveys Walton's legacy and plays music from his final years.

In his later years, Walton was seen as a pillar of the musical establishment- despite living in Italy- although he continued to think of himself as only a partial success. Donald Macleod surveys his legacy and plays music from the composer's final years.

In his later years, Walton was seen as a pillar of the musical establishment- despite living in Italy- although he continued to think of himself as only a partial success.

Donald Macleod surveys his legacy and plays music from the composer's final years.

A Song for the Lord Mayor's Table

Soprano: Felicity Lott

Piano: Graham Johnson

COLLINS 14932 Track 14

Missa Brevis

Kyrie

Sanctus and Benedictus

Agnus Dei

Gloria

Choir of St.

John's College, Cambridge

Organ: Christopher Whitton

Conductor: Christopher Robinson

NAXOS 8.555793 Tracks 13-16

Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten

London Symphony Orchestra

Conductor: Andre Previn

EMI 0777 7 64723 2 4 Track 13

MUSIC: Spitfire Music- Battle in the Air

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Conductor: Carl Davis

EMI CDC 7 47944 2 Track 5

Five Bagatelles for Guitar

5.

Con slancio

Guitar: Tom Kerstens

EMI 7243 5 55404 2 3 Track 11

Passacaglia for Solo Cello

Paul Watkins

Hyperion CDA67340 Track 12

March for A History of the English Speaking Peoples

EMI CDC 7 47944 2 Track 15.