£16 post free World-wide


555 sonatas 9Cds mp3 files
Only £22


Benjamin: Written on Skin £16

What's New
Previous CDs
Labels index

Every Day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor: Rob Barnett  
Founder Len Mullenger   


Walton (1902-1983) – A Shakespeare Suite from “Richard III”

The British can be a funny lot. Nowadays, film composers – especially Americans – are highly regarded. Not so in the mid-Twentieth Century, when the “growth industry” of British cinema dangled before composers the juicy carrot of a relatively reliable income. Unfortunately, they then found that the Musical Establishment, regarding them as mere jobbing peasants, was reluctant to take their “serious” work seriously. Worse, it was a life sentence. Even now, with the “offence” itself decriminalised, there’s no remission! The sole exception seemed to be composers - such as Bliss, Vaughan Williams and Walton - who were well-established before they started on film work. 

In his dozen or so film scores, Walton demonstrated a talent for creating concisely expressive music, reflecting the celluloid drama’s period, atmosphere and action. He understood the basic requirement - “. . . it needn’t necessarily be good or bad, only it must fit” – but, unlike his friend, Malcolm Arnold, he was no “professional”. Although he’d enjoyed working with Laurence Olivier, on Henry V and Hamlet, he otherwise “hated writing” film music. By the time he came to Richard III (1955), Walton felt he was scraping the bottom of his barrel of “historical chronicles” music. Yet, for many lesser composers, Walton’s barrel-scrapings would constitute rich pickings! 

Dictated by the medium, film scores tend to be bitty. Often, as Bernstein discovered to his dismay in On the Waterfront, music ends up on the cutting-room floor! Hence, film music usually needs arranging for concert performance. Here, Muir Mathieson - a pivotal figure in post-war British film – constructed a satisfyingly symmetrical “arch”. 

1. Fanfare; Music Plays. The fanfares are for pageantry, whilst the music plays for merry dancing. 

2. The Princes in the Tower starts on stately strings, a variation of the foregoing dance tune. However, this doesn’t symptomise paucity of invention, but common practice. Quite simply, it saves time

3. With Drum and Colours. Does “what it says on the tin” – a colourful counterpoint indeed, to have scraped from a barrel-bottom! 

4. I Would I Knew Thy Heart. This lament for strings deftly invokes intimacy by embedding soli in the band. If it sounds clichéd, that’s because it is – clichés are a handy short-cut to creating the right “feel”. 

5. Trumpets Sound. Bright fanfares, a festive march – Walton’s brilliant orchestration of sunshine and waving pennants! 

Return to Programme Index

© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street, Kamo, Whangarei 0101, Northland, New Zealand


Conditions for use apply. Details here
Copyright in these notes is retained by the author without whose prior written permission they may not be used, reproduced, or kept in any form of data storage system. Permission for use will generally be granted on application, free of charge subject to the conditions that (a) the author is duly credited, and (b) a donation is made to a charity of the author's choice.

Return to: Music on the Web