From The Library… Walton & Bliss

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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