English composer. Among his works are Facade (1923), a series of instrumental pieces designed to be played in conjunction with the recitation of surrealist poems by Edith Sitwell; the oratorio Belshazzar's Feast (1931); and Variations on a Theme by Hindemith (1963).
Walton showed great talent as a child and was sent to Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, as a chorister, later becoming an undergraduate at Christ Church. He had some composition lessons from the organist Hugh Allen, but after the age of 16 was self-taught, though he later received advice from Ferruccio Busoni and others. In 1923 he appeared for the first time at the International Society for Contemporary Music festival, at Salzburg, where his spiky first string quartet was performed. He settled in London and was in close touch with the literary Sitwell family: Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell. Their association led to Facade, for reciter and ensemble, whose 1923 premiere provoked an uproar. Paul Hindemith was the soloist in Walton's first widely successful work, the viola concerto of 1929, and two years later the aggressively mannered cantata Belshazzar's Feast was premiered at Leeds.
In 1934 his symphony in B♭ minor was performed in London before it was completed (the finale was added the next year). In 1938 he went to the USA to talk with the violinist Jascha Heifetz about the solo part of the violin concerto, which is dedicated to him. As in the viola concerto and the First Symphony, the best of contemporary continental influences, including Igor Stravinsky, Francis Poulenc, and Sergey Prokofiev can be heard here. A more Romanticlike style is evident in the post-war works, beginning with the opera for Covent Garden, Troilus and Cressida (1948–54), and continuing with the cello concerto for Piatigorsky (1956).
WorksDramatic operas Troilus and Cressida (after Chaucer, 1954, revised 1976) and The Bear (after Chekhov, 1967); film music for As You Like It, Henry V, and Hamlet (Shakespeare), The First of the Few (including Spitfire prelude and fugue).
VocalFacade for reciter and instrumental ensemble; (E Sitwell, 1923). Oratorio Belshazzar's Feast (Bible, arranged by O Sitwell, 1931); A Song for the Lord Mayor's Table for soprano and orchestra or piano (1962).
Orchestral overtures Portsmouth Point (on Rowlandson's drawing) and Scapino, two symphonies (1931–35 and 1960), Coronation Marches Crown Imperial and Orb and Sceptre (1937 and 1953), viola concerto (1929), violin concerto (1939), cello concerto (1956), Variations on a Theme by Hindemith (1963), Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten (1969), Sonata for Strings (from string quartet of 1947, 1971), Bagatelles for guitar (1971).
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