Cover image for William Walton : muse of fire
William Walton : muse of fire
Lloyd, Stephen, 1944-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Rochester, NY : Boydell Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xi, 332 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML410.W292 L56 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



When in June 1923 a bewildered audience in London's Aeolian Hall heard Edith Sitwell declaim her Façade poems through a megaphone, the 21-year-old William Walton - conducting behind a painted backcloth - stood on the threshold of fame. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s he was regarded as the white hope of British music, and a succession of works including the Viola Concerto, Belshazzar's Feast and the First Symphony more than fulfilled that early promise; he was also one of the first serious composers to be involved in films. Using first-hand accounts, this book explodes the myth of Façade's riotous reception, examines Walton's work in both films and radio and, through contemporary correspondence, articles and interviews - wherever possible in his own words - explores Walton's life and troubled times. It brings to the fore his complex personality - "remote, removed, distant" in Laurence Olivier's words, in dynamic contrast with music of such vitality and drama. Composition for him was an arduous, often painful, process riddled with difficulties, uncertainties and self-doubts, and further complicated by several love affairs (one being with Italy) that inspired his finest works. STEPHEN LLOYD's previous books include a biography of H. Balfour Gardiner and a collection of Eric Fenby's writings on Delius, which he edited. In addition to record sleeve notes, programme notes, reviews and articles, he has contributed to the Percy Grainger Companion, the Studies in Music Grainger Centennial Volume, An Elgar Companion, and volumes on Delius, Walton and Bliss.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

With the centenary of Walton's birth (2002) at hand, one is surprised to find no full-fledged biography since Michael Kennedy's Portrait of Walton (CH, Apr'90; rev. ed. 1998). Much Walton scholarship is available in other forms--Stewart Craggs led the charge with William Walton: A Thematic Catalogue of His Musical Works (CH, Apr'78) and subsequent works, and there are biographies, memoirs, and collections of letters of those who befriended, supported, influenced, and otherwise interacted with Walton during his long career. Lloyd, who has written extensively on English composers from Elgar to Bliss, has mined all this literature in addition to TV and radio interviews and collections of correspondence and private papers. The result is an immensely detailed (perhaps overly so), rich, and often fascinating anecdotal biography of a man who captivated his contemporaries with his charm, sardonic wit, love of fun, and an eclectic musical style that influenced many (e.g., jazz artists, Sibelius, Roussel) but remained clearly his own. Many colorful people fill these pages, and though Walton himself at times seems elusive, Lloyd's intelligent concluding pages bring welcome analytical rigor to his crowded canvas. Though it will not satisfy those seeking extensive treatment of Walton's music, this volume is recommended for all collections. Helpful works cited and bibliography. W. Metcalfe emeritus, University of Vermont