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10 things you didn’t know about… Walton
- Although William Walton went up to Oxford to study music, he left without a degree in 1920, having failed his exams three times.
His early choral masterpiece, A Litany, was written when the composer was just 15.
- Walton befriended the war poet Siegfried Sassoon at Oxford, and dedicated his Portsmouth Point overture to him.
- In 1948, Walton met the 22-year-old Susana Gil Passo in Buenos Aires while on a business trip. After dinner one evening, Walton is said to have told her ‘You will be very surprised, Miss Gil, to hear that I am going to marry you.’
- La Mortella, the Waltons’ home in Ischia, is open to the public – tours were conducted by his wife, Susana, up until her death in 2007.
- Walton received the Order of Merit in 1967, the fourth composer to be awarded the honour. There can be only 24 recipients of the award at any one time.
- William Walton wrote the music for the 1969 film Battle of Britain but it only on reading a copy of the Daily Telegraph that Walton discovered his music had been rejected in favour of a score by Ron Goodwin.
- When Elgar died in 1934, the British authorities asked Walton to write a piece for the coronation of George VI. Crown Imperial was unashamedly populist, and many of Walton’s admirers, who believed the composer to be an avant-garde musician, were disappointed.
- Benjamin Britten and Walton were close friends – Walton considered Britten a genius, but the compliment wasn’t reciprocated.
- Walton wrote the music for the opening sequence of the BBC’s television adaptations of Shakespeare plays which were broadcast between 1978 and 1985, by which time the composer had died.