Notes and Editorial Reviews
AT THE HAUNTED END OF DAY
Simon Rattle, cond; Yehudi Menuhin (va);
Julian Bream (gtr);
Iona Brown (vn);
Ralph Kirshbaum (vc);
Yvonne Kenny (sop);
John Shirley-Quirk (bar);
Carmen de Sautoy (nar);
Philharmonia O; Christ Church Cathedral Ch, Oxford;
Goldsmith Ch Union & Highgate Ch Society
TONY PALMER FILMS 113 (DVD: 99:00)
Excerpts: Cello Concerto.
Symphonies: No. 1; No. 2. Violin Concerto.
Drop, drop, slow tears.
Johannesburg Festival Overture. The Wise Virgins:
Bagatelle No. 3.
Coronation Te Deum. Troilus and Cressida
William Walton (1902–1983) was, by his own admission, an instinctive composer. Proficient on no instrument, he could just pick out notes and chords on a piano and was on the verge of being expelled from the school his parents, one a music teacher and the other a singer, could no longer afford. Inspiration came to him intermittently; his work was therefore uneven; but when truly inspired, as in the early choral anthems,
Façade, Balshazzar’s Feast
Coronation Te Deum
, his First Symphony, and the music for Lawrence Olivier’s films (particularly
), he was very good indeed. He longed to write an opera for decades, yet when he gave birth to his first,
Troilus and Cressida
, he realized it was uneven and so was sorely disappointed. Despite considerable fame, particularly in the years before 1945, he barely made enough money to live on. Only during the 1950s and 1960s did he finally generate enough income to live comfortably if not resplendently. In short, he was a quirky genius, often depressed, seldom satisfied with his work, yet paradoxically a man with deep passions about music and a wonderful sense of humor.
All this and more is captured in Tony Palmer’s 1981 documentary on the composer. One of its delights is the way he captured then-young Simon Rattle in performance: all of Rattle’s energy and enthusiasm for music is mirrored on his face. It’s also wonderful to see Julian Bream playing guitar, Yvonne Kenny in her most silvery voice singing passages from
Troilus and Cressida
, and Yehudi Menuhin playing viola. There is so much to say about this DVD, as is the case of most Palmer films, that it seems a shame to waste any more space doing so. Tony Palmer is the best friend the lively arts, particularly good music, has ever had in the documentary field, and this was evidently a labor of love. Those who adore Walton’s music will, of course, need it in their collection, but even those who have been ambivalent about certain works will find much to enjoy. It is delightful to see Palmer recreate the first performance of his most famous work,
—which is also one of the few that really reveals Walton’s sense of humor and his lifelong love of nightclubs—with Edith Sitwell look-alike Carmen de Sautoy yelling the poems through a megaphone that looks for all the world like a highway construction cone. Oh, yes, we also get a clip of Dame Edith herself from the 1960s talking about
, and generous interview samples from her kid brother Satcheverell, who was still alive at the time of filming.
Obviously, since this was a 1981 production, some of the visual quality is not up to the highest digital standards. But who cares? It’s a Tony Palmer film. Enough said.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: Digital Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Running time: 99 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 Read less
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