Thursday, January 3, 2008

William Walton - This composer should be heard

The English composer William Walton, in one of his most important compositions, re-asserts the great tradition of choral writing in London in 1931, having been aided most significantly by that eminent German-turned-Londoner George Frederick Handel back in the 18th century in his oratorios, the most famous, of course, turning out to be "Messiah."
Walton's "Belshazzar's Feast" is one of the most evocative and powerful statements, in chorale form, coming out of the 20th century.
The text relates the fall of Babylon after the slaying of Belshazzar the King, which, as I recall, is out of the Book of Daniel.
The sense of foreboding and terror is magnificent in this composition, especially when the Hand writes out the warning "mene, mene, tekel upharsin"(thou art weighed in the balance, and found wanting).
Walton's score, which calls for an orchestra larger than the usual(he adds saxophone, piano, organ and two brass bands, one on either side of the chorus)coupled with his brilliant choral technique, hurls the impact of the story at the listener in a truly unique manner.
One recording I know of may be available upon special request. It was done around 1950, with a special coming together of orchestra and chorus, conducted by the eminent Britisher Sir Adrian Boult.
Of interest to me is that the composer Walton never took a composition lesson in his life.

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