From The Library… Walton & Bliss

in Daily Programme

by Elrik Merlin on Friday, 23 November, 2007

Today we play music by the last of our featured British composers: William Walton (1902–1983) and Arthur Bliss (1891–1975).

Born in Oldham, Lancashire, William Walton always had an association with the region and indeed, in 1962 he was asked to write an opening theme for the local commercial TV station, Granada Television, first broadcast in 1965, which appears here complete with opening announcement. And although that piece might be the most-heard of his works, he is probably best-known for film music, including the Spitfire Prelude & Fugue from the 1942 film First of the Few, about aircraft designer R J Mitchell. He also wrote a complete score for the film Battle of Britain, though only one piece was actually used (the rest being re-scored by Ron Goodwin).

In addition, Walton had a wide range of output including symphonic works (represented here by his Symphony Number 1); choral pieces, such as the oratorio Belshazzar’s Feast, which brought him worldwide acclaim; chamber works; and more modernistic material, particularly in the early days, such as the unique Façade, featuring arrangements of poems by Edith Sitwell – presented here, unusually, in the complete version including both poems and musical versions. He is also noted for his ceremonial music such as the Coronation march Orb & Sceptre.

We will also hear a short selection of works by Sir Arthur Bliss. A contemporary of Walton’s, he also wrote film music (notably for the remarkable 1936 film version of H G Wells’s Things To Come) music for British commercial television (for Associated British – ABC Television) and ceremonial music (he became Master of the Queen’s Music in 1953, succeeding Arnold Bax). He also composed in both modernistic and traditional styles. Regrettably, however, Bliss never received the recognition that he undoubtedly deserved – a situation that The Arthur Bliss Society seeks to redress.

• Produced by Radio Riel in conjunction with the Caledon Library in Second Life. Listen to the programme now at, or simply visit any Caledon Library branch in-world and press Play on your embedded music player.


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