|Walton: Viola Concerto||Composer||1928-1929|
|Walton: Belshazzar's Feast||Composer||1931|
|Walton: Violin Concerto||Composer||1938-1939|
|Walton: Façade, for reciter & ensemble||Composer||1922|
|Walton: Spitfire Prelude and Fugue||Composer||1942|
|Walton: Cello Concerto||Composer||1956|
|Walton: Partita, for orchestra||Composer||1957|
Sir William Turner Walton, OM (29 March 1902 – 8 March 1983) was an English composer. During a sixty-year career, he wrote music in several classical genres and styles, from film scores to opera. His best-known works include Façade, the cantata Belshazzar's Feast, the Viola Concerto and the First Symphony.
Born in Oldham, Lancashire, the son of a musician, Walton was a chorister and then an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford. On leaving the university, he was taken up by the literary Sitwell siblings, who provided him with a home and a cultural education. His earliest work of note was a collaboration with Edith Sitwell, Façade, which at first brought him notoriety as a modernist, but later became a popular ballet score.
In middle age, Walton left Britain and set up home with his young wife Susana on the Italian island of Ischia. By this time, he had ceased to be regarded as a modernist, and some of his compositions of the 1950s were criticised as old-fashioned. His only full-length opera, Troilus and Cressida, was among the works to be so labelled and has made little impact in opera houses. In his last years, his works came back into critical fashion; his later compositions, dismissed by critics at the time of their premieres, were revalued and regarded alongside his earlier works.
Walton was a slow worker, painstakingly perfectionist, and his complete body of work across his long career is not large. His most popular compositions continue to be frequently performed in the twenty-first century, and by 2010 almost all his works had been released on CD.
Walton was a slow worker. Both during composition and afterwards he would continually revise his music; he said, "Without an india-rubber I was absolutely sunk." Consequently, his total body of work from his sixty-year career as a composer is not large. Between the first performance of Façade in 1923, for example, and that of the Sinfonia Concertante in 1928, he averaged only one small piece a year. Of his work as a whole, Byron Adams in Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians writes:
Walton's music has often been too neatly dismissed by a few descriptive tags: "bittersweet", "nostalgic" and, after World War II, "same as before". Such convenient categorizations ignore the expressive variety of his music and slight his determination to deepen his technical and expressive resources as he grew older. His early discovery of the basic elements of his style allowed him to assimilate successfully an astonishing number of disparate and apparently contradictory influences, such as Anglican anthems, jazz, and the music of Stravinsky, Sibelius, Ravel and Elgar.
The writer adds that Walton's allegiance to his basic style never wavered and that this loyalty to his own vision, together with his rhythmic vitality, sensuous melancholy, sly charm and orchestral flair, gives Walton's finest music "an imperishable glamour". Another biographer of Walton, Neil Tierney, writes that although contemporary critics felt that the post-war music did not match Walton's pre-war compositions, it has become clear that the later works are "if emotionally less direct, more profound."