Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Sir William Walton

In 1956, cellist Piatigorsky commissioned Walton to write a cello concerto. Although he did not play the instrument, the composer agreed, flippantly adding "I'm a professional composer. I'll write for anybody if he pays me." After meeting Walton, Piatigorsky told the pianist Ivor Newton, through whom the commission had been forwarded, "I have never encountered such a rare combination of greatness and simplicity. A great composer like Walton needs no suggestions from me." The concerto was completed in eight months and exploits the cello's rich sound and expressive cantabile, with exciting accompanied and unaccompanied cadenzas. The orchestra is fairly small and the solo part is clearly heard throughout. The work is basically in two substantial movements linked by a fully worked out scherzo creating a balanced whole. In the first movement, (Moderato), which has no cadenza, the principal theme, a broad, meditative melody, is first given to the cello, then developed by soloist and orchestra, often featuring the wind section. The Scherzo, marked Allegro appassionato, opens in rapid triple time followed by a more relaxed section and a march-like interlude with a snappy coda. The final movement, featuring a colorful theme with two variations for orchestra alone and two (variations two and four) for unaccompanied cello, clearly establishes the underlying thematic coherence of the concerto, which has considerable rhythmic freedom and melodic variety throughout. This movement ends with a short Adagio recalling motifs from earlier movements. The concerto is one of Walton's most accessible works and provides an excellent introduction to his occasionally quirky, but always and inventive, style of writing.