[CLASSICAL MUSIC] The Savage Emotional Intensity of Walton's First 🎻

in #music4 years ago (edited)

William Walton's (1902-1983) First Symphony is a veritable volcanic eruption of emotions. A musical lava flow of painful suffering. He willingly acknowledged that this music embodied the stormy love relationship with Baroness Imma von Doernberg, who left him for the Hungarian doctor, musician and art philosopher Tibor Csató in the early 30's.

There is no doubt that Walton was dealing with severe emotional pain. During the tidy melody at the beginning of the first movement, he can't hold back the anger and the undiluted jealousy that pulsates underneath the surface. The second movement is a stormy struggle between the love couple, now on its way to break-up. Walton has given the movement the tempo designation of presto con malizia (malice), which clearly shows what he considered about his former lover. Written between 1932 and 1935, some of the tumult can of course also be explained by the political and social situation of the early 30's.

The third movement, Andante con malinconia (melancholy), takes the direction of what Walton perceived as the only possible way, namely down, into the pit of self-pity and depression. It's a masterful musical depiction of the plagues of abandonment. The dense movement is like a complex weave of the whole spectrum of melancholy, from sentimentality and bitter sorrow to qualms and shattering anxiety. No relief seems to be within reach.

But there would be a light at the end of the tunnel. Only the first three movements were performed at premiere in 1934, but by then Walton had already met and become infatuated with the twenty-two-year-old Alice Wimborne, who, just like Imma von Doernberg, belonged to nobility. In the second performance of the symphony he had added the fourth and last movement, a euphoric description of the new and boundless love. The relationship with Alice Wimborne would last for twelve years.

Enjoy the savage emotional intensity in this recording by Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Alexander Shelley.


William Walton

Symphony No. 1 in B-flat minor

I.   Allegro assai
II.  Scherzo: Presto con malizia
III. Andante con malinconia
IV.  Maestoso – Allegro, brioso ed ardentemente – Vivacissimo – Maestoso


Very complex music, yet still melodies in there ... takes some getting used to

Yes, it's a quite unique idiom indeed, albeit some influences from Sibelius can be heard. You should also listen to his three concertos for cello, violin and viola; each among the finest of the 20th century repertoire.

Thanks for the recommendation

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