William Walton

William Walton : Behind the Facade

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Susana Walton tells the story of her 35 years of marriage with William Walton to the time of his death in Ischia, Bay of Naples. She includes anecdotes and reminiscences, many in Walton's own words and previously unpublished, of the composer's early life from his childhood in Oldham, Lancashire to his musical education at Oxford, his discovery by the Sitwells, his personal relationships and his sudden emergence in the 1920s as a leading musician of his generation. The book includes intimate glimpses of many celebrated friends such as Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Hans Werner Henze, Malcolm Sargent, W.H.Auden, Benjamin Britten and Yehudi Menuhin.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 268 pages
  • 120 x 190mm | 215g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Paperbacks
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 8 pp plates
  • 0192826352
  • 9780192826350

Table of contents

Courtship and marriage in Buenos Aires; my early life in Argentina; newly weds; from Oldham to Oxford; the Sitwells; three masterpieces; first symphony; music for films; Laurence Olivier; Ischia; other composers; invitations and honours; "Troilus and Cressida"; second symphony; cello concerto; "La Mortella"; guests, tenants and friends; "The Bear"; final tributes; coda. Appendices: desert island discs; Walton missing manuscripts.show more

Review Text

A loving memoir of one of England's great 20th-century composers, by his widow. A young Argentine beauty totally devoid of musical knowledge ("Not knowing anything about music," Walton once told her, "is your only virtue"), Mrs. Walton met the much-older, already famous composer in 1948. She begins with an account of their courtship, and goes on to offer some deep insights into Walton's inner feelings about his craft. Despite a cushy life on the Italian isle of Ischia, Walton felt that for him to compose music was a more painful ordeal than a woman's giving birth to children. "Symphonies are a lot of work," he told his wife. "One has to have something really appalling happen to one that lets loose the fount of inspiration." Mrs. Walton's anecdotes often amuse, as when Schoenberg becomes irked at being discovered actually composing at the piano, or "Larry" Olivier, describing to Walton a tune he'd just thought of, says, "Now this is a beautiful tune I've thought of - dum de dura de dum," to which Walton replies, "Yes, it is a lovely tune; it's out of Meistersinger." There's also a bumbling appearance here by the womanizing conductor Malcolm Sargent, fumbling under Mrs. Walton's skirts as she tries to drive him home from rehearsals of her husband's Troilus and Cressida. Despite an occasional quirkiness, and a heavy penchant for dropping names, especially royal ones, Mrs. Walton's presentable, not too sychophantic remembrance, chock-full of musicdotes, will please most classical-music lovers. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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