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William Walton: A Bio-Bibliography by Carolyn J Smith. Bio-Bibliographies in Music Number 18. 247pp. $68.50. ISBN 0-313-25391-9. I988. Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut 06881.


AmazonUK  £67.50 AmazonUS $80

The centenary next year of Walton’s birth will see the publication of a number of books on the composer, among them a letter edition and a picture book, and no doubt further volumes of the Walton Edition. Here, by contrast, is a book that has been out some twelve years yet will quite likely have escaped the notice of many readers because it was not widely reviewed, so all the more reason for drawing people’s attention to it now. Carolyn Smith’s Walton bio-bibliography is one in a series from the Greenwood Press that now runs to about 80 titles. Other volumes deal with such diverse figures as Arthur Bliss, Virgil Thomson, Max Reger, Charles Ives, Cécile Chaminade, Malcolm Arnold and George Gershwin, to mention but a handful. Carolyn Smith herself contributed one on Peter Maxwell Davies in 1995 and more recently there has been a most welcome volume on Cyril Scott by Laurie J Sampsel.

Carolyn Smith’s bio-bibliography appeared eleven years after Stewart Craggs’ excellent William Walton: A Thematic Catalogue of his Musical Works (OUP 1977, which was extensively revised in 1990 as William Walton: A Catalogue, and a further up-dated edition is promised). It takes the form of a brief biography; a list of works and first performances; a discography; an extensive bibliography that includes articles and reviews, books, theses and dissertations, and articles by Walton himself; and an archival section with a list of collections of Walton’s music. Its presentation and format will be familiar to those who know others in this series: a type-face that looks rather primitive by comparison with most modern catalogues, as if they were typewriter rather than computer generated. But these volumes are admirable in other ways, not least their strong binding. It has to be said that Craggs’ Catalogue is much to be preferred for its wealth and depth of detail, and as regards accuracy Craggs is of course much more up-to-date.

But the researcher should not overlook Smith’s bio-bibliography, if for one section only. Her bibliography of articles and reviews goes beyond a mere listing. Not only does it include many reviews and articles that the researcher may not have come upon – and even know of, but in each case she summarises their content, often with brief but very useful and revealing quotations. For the staging of J. M. Barrie’s ‘The Boy David’ in 1936, the Glasgow Herald thought that the ‘gramophone renderings of Walton’s impressionistic score seemed superfluous’ and the Weekly Scotsman remarked that the ‘musical background . . . was at no point very evident’, while for John Gielgud’s 1942 production of ‘Macbeth’ the Theatre World reviewer felt that ‘much . . . is owed . . . to William Walton’s incidental music’. Clearly in the meantime something had been learned about using specially recorded music in the theatre.

It is a pity in some ways that the articles were not listed chronologically rather than by author, especially when it is the earliest reviews that are by and large the more interesting and one would have liked to have followed these through as Walton’s reputation grew. It is not always easy to add to or correct catalogues such as these when their scope is so vast: Walton’s own article on Constant Lambert that stemmed from a radio tribute is missing, and in B448 a 1965 article is reviewing a 1972 concert ! But Carolyn Smith’s thoroughness is impressive and her invaluable listing of articles and reviews in particular should not be overlooked, although it may be a high price to pay for this section alone. Nevertheless, the record collector will find the discography of some fascination as the records are listed as records, so that, for example, an LP containing four Walton works is entered four times under each work, and with each record the complete contents is given, whether the coupling is a work by Walton or not. Also - very helpful for the collector - re-issues are separate entries. All in all, despite its age this is still a very useful addition to the Walton bookshelf.

Stephen Lloyd

Stephen Lloyd is the author of William Walton: Muse of Fire (Boydell & Brewer)
AmazonUK £35   AmazonUS $75


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