Walton Viola Concerto Program Notes
Walton came to prominence in 1923 with Façade, an Entertainment, for band and amplified speaker (Edith Sitwell, of the British Sitwell literary clan, reading her poetry: the work would be lampooned by Noël Coward). In 1929 the conductor Thomas Beecham encouraged Walton to send his new viola concerto to the British viola luminary Lionel Tertis. Although reputed to have returned it “by the next mail,” Tertis later embraced the work, especially after its première by composer and violist Paul Hindemith.
The first movement introduces the viola with a searchingly lyrical and melancholic waltz. This journey leads toward muscular section, developed over the waltz material in the orchestra. The development ends with a restless (“Inquietamente”) recitativo, followed by a sinister orchestral tutti section, before settling back into a last wistful waltz with the soloist.
Walton also composed music for the three Lawrence Olivier Shakespeare films, Henry V, Hamlet and Richard III. He wrote two symphonies (imagine, if you will, Mahler’s emotional range, with British flavor), operas and ballets, and music for two coronations (George VI in 1937 and Elizabeth II in 1953). Humorously self-depreciating, he once said “The critics have been saying that I'm out of date ever since they heard my Viola Concerto. I like being out of date so long as there's nothing going on I don't know about.”