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Classical 101

By Request: William Walton

British composer Sir William Walton (1902-1983 tends to get lost between Edward Elgar and Benjamin Britten. Walton lacked the jingoism of Elgar and the louche of Britten. He did have the gift of the theatrical and delighted in gambling with public approval. Walton was the son of a choirmaster and was an accomplished musician by age ten. After leaving Oxford without a degree, the young man was taken up by the glamorous, iconoclastic Sitwell family, siblings who lived in a gloomy London townhouse and who were magnets for the avant garde. Walton's best known work, Facade was written for the Sitwells. Sister Edith proclaimed her own poetry through a megaphone behind a screen while Walton conducted a small ensemble. Noel Coward walked out . That had to be good publicity. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R32wExEghEQ   The First Symphony was begun in 1930. It was not written on commission, as was Crown Imperial which the BBC requested for the coronation of George VI. (The king did not like music. His missus did.) Work was interrupted by the death of Walton's wealthy lady friend, Alice, the Viscountess Milborne. In 1934 Sir Adrian Boult convinced Walton to allow a public performance of the three finished movements. The fourth was added the following year. It's a large scale smphony.No British nymphs and shepherds here. The first movement is excitingly brass heavy, including a busy tuba. The second movement Scherzo is labeled, intriguingly, con malizia, malice. And the third, an andante melancholia. From the Sitwells, Walton had learned to leave the choir room behind, at least in symphonic music. (The cantata Belshazzar's Feast is one of the composer's best known works.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHYMFNUAL-I The First Symphony lacks the wit of Facade. It's grand, loud and a bit sad. It is worth knowing better. See what you can learn 'By Request'? Classical 101 By Request Fridays 1-3 PM. What would you like to hear? www.wosu.org/requests