WILLIAM WALTON: Behind the Facade by Susana Walton

WILLIAM WALTON: Behind the Facade

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A loving memoir of one of England's great 20th-century composers, by his widow. A young Argentine beauty totally devoid of musical knowledge (""Not knowing anything about music,"" Walton once told her, ""is your only virtue""), Mrs. Walton met the much-older, already famous composer in 1948. She begins with an account of their courtship, and goes on to offer some deep insights into Walton's inner feelings about his craft. Despite a cushy life on the Italian isle of Ischia, Walton felt that for him to compose music was a more painful ordeal than a woman's giving birth to children. ""Symphonies are a lot of work,"" he told his wife. ""One has to have something really appalling happen to one that lets loose the fount of inspiration."" Mrs. Walton's anecdotes often amuse, as when Schoenberg becomes irked at being discovered actually composing at the piano, or ""Larry"" Olivier, describing to Walton a tune he'd just thought of, says, ""Now this is a beautiful tune I've thought of--dum de dura de dum,"" to which Walton replies, ""Yes, it is a lovely tune; it's out of Meistersinger."" There's also a bumbling appearance here by the womanizing conductor Malcolm Sargent, fumbling under Mrs. Walton's skirts as she tries to drive him home from rehearsals of her husband's Troilus and Cressida. Despite an occasional quirkiness, and a heavy penchant for dropping names, especially royal ones, Mrs. Walton's presentable, not too sychophantic remembrance, chock-full of musicdotes, will please most classical-music lovers.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1988
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press