Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
TODAY IS
June 22
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Happened
Today?
William Turner Walton's Portsmouth Point Overture was first performed June 22, 1926 at the Festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music in Zurich.

Walton was born on 29 March 1902. His father was the director of the local church choir.  Walton, through his participating in the choir became familiar Haydn's Creation and Handel's Messiah, and many of the other works typically performed in churches.
1787 - Carl Friedrich Abel, viola da gamba virtuoso, died.

1871 - Premiere of Wagner's Kaiser March at a Theodore Thomas Orchestra concert at Central Park Garden in New York City.

1911 - Premiere of Elgar's Coronation March, at coronation of King George V and Queen Mary.

1938 - Premiere of Krenek's opera Karl V, in Prague at the New German Theater.

1963 - The Safaris' Wipeout was released.

1974 - French composer Darius Milhaud, died at age 81, in Geneva,

1990 - Billy Joel became the first rock artist to perform at Yankee Stadium.
Sir William Walton
1902-1983
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When Walton was ten years old, he was accepted as a chorister of Christ Church Cathedral at Oxford University.  This was a tremendous opportunity for him.  He spent many hours at Oxford's music library studying the scores of such composers as Holst, Stravinsky, Bartók, Prokofiev, Strauss, and Schoenberg. 

Walton composed several works for his classes.  Hugh Allen, the Church organist, and Thomas Strong, the Dean of Christ Church, saw a great deal of talent there and were quite supportive.  In 1918, while still at Oxford, Walton began a Piano Quartet, his first major work.   He also developed a friendship with poet Sacheverell Sitwell.

Walton left Oxford in 1920 without having been awarded a degree.  When he left the university Sitwell invited Walton to live with his family as an "adopted" brother.  While there Walton met many important musicians.  He also completed the piano quartet, which premiered in Salzburg in 1923.

At this time Walton played in a jazz band, but continued composing.  His reputation began as a significant young composer grew. His Portsmouth Point Overture proved popular in the United States, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra included it in their repertoire for a 1929 tour.

In early 1929 Walton composed a viola concerto commissioned by Lionel Tertis.  Tertis rejected the work, but it was premiered by Paul Hindemith  It was instantly recognized as a masterpiece.  Tertis later performed the work in 1930.

About this time Walton composed his first film score, Escape Me Never.  His First Symphony  premiered in 1935.  It was praised as equal to those of Elgar and Vaughan Williams.
Following several other successes, Jascha Heifetz and the British Council commissioned a Violin Concerto. In 1939, he presented the piece to Heifetz, who was extremely enthusiastic.  The outbreak of World War II prevented Walton from attending the concerto’s premiere, but he actually learned to conduct in preparation for the concerto’s English premiere.  Walton eventually became an excellent conductor of his own works.


In early 1941, Walton was drafted to military service, and was assigned to compose music for patriotic films. He also wrote the score for Henry V, the first of three Shakespeare films directed by Laurence Olivier, for which Walton was even nominated for an Academy Award.

Walton celebrated the end of the war with String Quartet in A minor.  He also began an opera.  He composed a Violin Sonata for Yehudi Menuhin and two pieces (Orb and Sceptre and a choral Coronation Te Deum) to commemorate the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. His opera, Troilus and Cressida,  premiered in 1954, but was not enthusiastically received.  He was knighted in 1951.

In 1955, Walton composed another Shakespeare film for Laurence Olivier, Richard III. His Cello Concerto (written for Gregor Piatigorsky) premiered in 1956.  Walton continued to compose and was admitted to the Order of Merit in 1967.  Choral and orchestral works followed.  He wrote a love song cycle.  He was well respected worldwide as a composer.

Walton’s final decade was difficult for him.  Composing became harder.  He tried to compose a third symphony, but abandoned it.  His final works were mostly reorchestrations of earlier works as well as liturgical choral pieces.

William Turner Walton died at his home on the island of Ischia in Italy March 8, 1983.
Violinist Jascha Heifetz plays Walton.
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Jascha Heifetz
plays Walton
Can You Guess?
Edward Elgar, who we read about below, wrote five Pomp and Circumstances Marches.  March No. 1 is associated with a special occasion in the lives of most young people.  Can You Guess what that event is?

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Did You Guess?
Pomp and Circumstances March No. 1 is played at this occasion so often that many people only know it as "that graduation song."

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olor clues?
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