William Walton MP3, CDs & Vinyl, Music of William Walton

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William Walton MP3, CDs & Vinyl, Music of William Walton

William Walton: Overview

William Walton: Sir William Walton (b. Oldham, 29 March 1902), in full Sir William Turner Walton, (born March 29, 1902, Oldham, Lancashire, Eng.— died March 8, 1983, Ischia, Italy), English composer especially known for his orchestral music. His early work made him one of England's most important composers between the time of Vaughan Williams and that of Benjamin Britten.

William Walton, the son of a choirmaster father and a vocalist mother, studied violin and piano desultorily as a boy and also sang, with somewhat better results, in his father's choir. He taught himself composition, although he received advice from both Ernest Ansermet and Ferruccio Busoni. In 1912 he entered the University of Oxford, where he sang in the choir of Christ Church. He put in the requisite four years of study but failed by one examination (Responsonions) to win a bachelor of music degree. At Oxford he had met the Sitwell brothers, Osbert and Sacheverell, by whom he was virtually adopted, and he spent most of the next decade traveling with them or living with them at Chelsea. During this period he composed Façade (1923)—a set of pieces for chamber ensemble, to accompany the Sitwells' sister Edith in a recitation of her poetry—as well as Sinfonia Concertante for piano and orchestra (1928; revised 1943) and Portsmouth Point (1926), which established his reputation as an orchestral composer.

William Walton was influenced by some of his older contemporaries, notably Edward Elgar, Igor Stravinsky, and Paul Hindemith. Hindemith was soloist in the first performance of one of William Walton's finest works, his Viola Concerto (1929). Walton also composed a number of scores for motion pictures, including Major Barbara (1941), Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1947), and Richard III (1954). His vocal music includes the oratorio Belshazzar’s Feast (1931) and the operas Troilus and Cressida (1954) and The Bear (one act; 1967). The composer received a knighthood in 1951.

William Walton was born in Lancashire and at the age of ten won a place as chorister at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was encouraged by the Dean of Christ Church (Thomas Banks Strong) and by Dr (later Sir) Hugh Allen through whom he was enabled to matriculate at the exceptionally early age of sixteen. He passed his Mus.Bac. but not his B.A. and left Oxford degree-less; that was the end of his formal training. But while in residence at Oxford he had made a number of influential friends, the most important among whom from the point of view of William Walton's later career was Sacheverell Sitwell.

For the next ten years William Walton lived with the Sitwells in Chelsea on and off as a kind of adopted or elected brother; this broadened his horizons incalculably both through exposure to the visual arts and through European travel. Musically, too, the Sitwells introduced him to Constant Lambert, possibly the greatest single influence on his career, and to other significant composers of the day, among them Bernard van Dieren and Philip Heseltine. It was through the Sitwells too that William Walton's name first came before the public in 1922 in the form of Facade, an entertainment originally devised by them for performance in their own drawing-room. Some years before, a youthful piano quartet had won a Carnegie Award, but after Facade the overture Portsmouth Point (1925) was more indicative of the true bent of William Walton's development than the string quartet 'full of undigested Bartok and Schoenberg' which achieved performance at the 1923 ISCM Festival but was later withdrawn. Much more substantial were the Sinfonia Concertante for piano and orchestra (1927) and the Viola Concerto (1929); with the latter William Walton achieved maturity as a composer and with his large-scale choral work Belshazzar's Feast (1931) public renown to boot. His Symphony No. 1 (1935) and the Vaughan Williams' F minor (1934) are the two most important British symphonies of the inter-war period, but by the time the Violin Concerto appeared (1939) William Walton had found another outlet for his lyrico-dramatic talent - film music. His activities in this field culminated in three momentous Shakespeare collaborations with Sir Laurence Olivier (Henry V, Hamlet and Richard III) but there were no major concert works during the war years apart from the comedy overture Scapino (1940).

Afterwards, between the composition of the A minor String Quartet (1947) and the Violin Sonata (1949) William Walton married Senorita Susana Gil in Buenos Aires and shortly after settled in Ischia, off the coast of Naples - whence comes the tendency to Mediterran - eanise which informs most of William Walton's music from now on: the opera Troilus and Cressida (1954), the Johannesburg Festival Overture (1956), the Partita for Orchestra (1957), the Second Symphony (1960) and the one-act extravaganza The Bear (1967). For the past twenty years, his life has been uneventful, though until recently he was quite active in many parts of the world as conductor of his own compositions. He was knighted in 1951.

William Walton's best work was done by the time of Troilus and Cressida. Thereafter whatever his music gained in tautness or astringency it lost in magnificence and grande envergure, and in the opinion of many the loss has outweighed the gain. The latter qualities were two pre-dominating hallmarks of his style as it crystallised in Belshazzar's Feast and the Symphony No. 1, and they also inform other memorable scores of the pre-war period - the choral setting of Dunbar's In Honour of the City of London (1937), the Coronation March Crown Imperial (1937), the music for Louis MacNiece's radio play Christopher Columbus (1942) and the Hamlet music (1944). Other characteristics include a type of extrovert physical assertiveness encouraged by familiarity with the scores of Stravinsky and Prokofiev and with jazz, and a vein of bitter-sweet lyricism which is particularly prominent in the Viola and Violin Concertos and in the slow movement of the Symphony and later flowered into the full-blown romanticism of Troilus and Cressida; the music for the film Escape me Never (1935) is only one instance of how well this innate tendency to quasi-conventional romantic expressiveness could serve William Walton in the cinema, and much of his film music, belonging as it does to his best period, is deserving of closer evaluation (e.g., the score for the 1942 film of Shaw's Major Barbara). His idiom, though braced by infiltration of Continental elements, has never been ashamed to affirm its links with tradition, often of a specifically English kind; he has aptly described himself as 'a classical composer with a strong feeling for lyricism' and his genius is for triumphant conformity within the rules rather than for iconoclasm. As such he is a major figure in English music and musically speaking occupies a position midway between Elgar and Britten.

William Walton: CDs & Vinyl

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William Walton: MP3

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