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Walton, Belshazzar's Feast

Dear list,

That you SO much for you professional input on my original query on Walton's
Belshazzar's Feast. The responses I received were very helpful, and I am
happy to share them with you:

-----Original Message-----
Dear List:

I am looking for bibliographical references for William Walton's
Feast." I've exhausted the OCLC, RILM and the Music Index with very little
If you know of any publication, or articles that discribe the history, or
give an analysis of this great work, I'd be very pleased to know where!

----- Responses ---------

As to your query, I'm almost sure the Belshazzar's Feast
was given a long mention in Suzanna Walton's biography of
her husband. (Which volume I don't own; heard a long interview
with her on public radio in the US at the time it was published.)


Perhaps this will be helpful, as I am just now preparing program notes for
our performance on May 19 by the Cathedral Choral Society at Washington
National Cathedral as part of the Walton Centenary Celebration.

There is a wealth of information available. I have just read the 284-page
dissertation by Lynn Sams Luce, DMA, 1995, U. Miami. It is available via
UMI, # AAT 9537931. Title is "William Walton's 'Belshazzar's Feast': A
conductor's analysis for performance." She reviews related literature,
examines the biographical influences that shaped Walton's musical style,
Walton's unique musical language, historical information about the first
performances, the text for the work and its librettist. Her greatest
strength is, of course, the structural analysis of the work. Her chapters
leading up to the analysis are adequate, relying upon and quoting from
(sometimes not with the attribution one would hope at the DMA level) the
secondary sources given below.

I suggest reading the following books, which should be available in both
public and university libraries, or through or other online

(1) Osbert Sitwell's five-volume autobiography, but particularly vol. 3:
Laughter in the Next Room, which discusses his relationship with Walton and
work on Belshazzar.

(2) Philip Ziegler's Osbert Sitwell, Knopf, 1999, which touches on the
anti-Semitic tone of the original libretto and changes thereto made by
Sitwell's lover.

(3) Michael Kennedy, Portrait of Walton, 1998

(4) Stewart R. Cragg, editor, William Walton: music and literature, 1999

(5) Frank Stewart Howes, The Music of William Walton, Oxford, 1965

(6) Susana Walton, William Walton: Behind the Facade, 1988.

There are also reputable websites to research for the background of Babylon
and of Belshazzar's Feast. The William Walton Trust maintains an excellent


Have you considered Ken Fulton's wonderful Ph.D. dissertation from Texas
Tech.? The title is something like "Selected Choral Works of William
Walton" and it is filled with insightful biographical and analytical


The standard reference work was always Frank Howes excellent biography
though that was written in the 1960's (I think). But a new and definitive
work has recently been published by Michael Kennedy which has received great
critical acclaim. I haven't read it myself as yet (though it's on my 'to do'
list) and off-hand, I can't recall the publisher though I would begin with
Oxford University Press who published most of Walton's work during his

-- and this follow-up --

After sending you the e-mail I just checked the Oxford Univ.Press site and
found the following:

Portrait of Walton
Michael Kennedy

Price: #15.99 (Paperback)
Publication date: 22 October 1998
Clarendon Press 364 pages, 8 pp black and white plates, 216mm x 138mm
Series: Clarendon Paperbacks

This has a complete section dedicated to Belshazzar's Feast. Having
conducted the work, and it is my all-time favourite piece, I would be happy
to answer any performing questions you might have.

William Walton--The Romantic Loner - A Centenary Portrait Album
Humphrey Burton, Member of the Walton Trust, and Maureen Murray, Curator of
the Walton Archive

Price: #25.00 (Hardback )
Publication date: 24 January 2002
190 pages, halftones and music examples throughout, 243mm x 243mm


A colleague of mine forwarded your query below and suggested that I get in
touch with you. There is a very good chapter on the history of Belshazzar's
Feast in Michael Kennedy's book "A Portrait of Walton" (OUP New York 1989),
and a brief overview in Grove (which I'm sure you would have seen). As for
specifically analytical articles, I'm afraid I really don't know what's out


I was able to find Howes biography in the university library (not sure why I
didn't find it the first time!) and am searching out locations for the
other publications!

Again, many thanks to all who responded.

John Brough, M.Mus
D.Mus Provisional Candidate
University of Alberta