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Walton, Sir William
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Biography
Sir William Walton

(Born; Oldham, 29 March 1902; Died; Ischia, 8 March 1983). English composer. He was educated at Oxford, and was a member of the Sitwells circle from the beginning of the 1920s. His first important work was Façade, setting poems by Edith Sitwell for reciter and sextet and evidently modelled on Pierrot lunaire while looking more to Les Six in its wit and jazziness. The next works again showed Parisian connections: with Stravinsky and Honegger in the overture Portsmouth Point, with Prokofiev in the Viola Concerto. Then, without losing the vividness of his harmony and orchestration, he responded to the English Handelian tradition in Belshazzar's Feast and to Sibelius in his First Symphony, though here Elgar too is invoked, as in much of his later music. The Violin Concerto (1939) confirmed this homecoming.

The next decade was comparatively unproductive, except in film music (Henry V, Hamlet). At the end of it he married and moved to Ischia, where all his later works were composed. These include the opera Troilus and Cressida, found theatrically effective if conservative in approach when given at Covent Garden in 1954, and his one-act opera The Bear, a parodistic Chekhovian extravaganza, given at Aldeburgh in 1967. Among the late orchestral works are a Cello Concerto, cooler and more serene than the earlier concertos, a Second Symphony and miscellaneous pieces including a finely-worked set of Hindemith Variations, which shows an improvisatory character typical of his late music.

Operas Troilus and Cressida (1954); The Bear (1967)

Ballets The Wise Virgins (1940); The Quest (1943)

Orchestral music Portsmouth Point (1925); Siesta (1926); Sinfonia concertante (1927); Va Conc. (1929), 2 syms. (1935, 1960); Vn Conc. (1939); Scapino (1940); Johannesburg Festival Ov. (1956); Vc Conc. (1956); Partita (1957); Variations on a Theme by Hindemith (1963); Capriccio burlesco (1963); Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten (1969)

Choral music with orchestra Belshazzar's Feast (1931); In Honour of the City of London (1937); Coronation Te Deum (1953)

Choral music with organ The Twelve (1965); Missa brevis (1966)

Vocal music Façade (1922); A Song for the Lord Mayor's Table (1962)

Chamber music Str Qt (1947); Vn Sonata (1949)

Film music The First of the Few (1942); Went the Day Well? (1942); Henry V (1944); Hamlet (1947); Richard III (1955); The Battle of Britain (1969)

(c)Groves Dictionaries, MacMillan Publishers Limited, UK

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