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Richard Rodney Bennett

Publisher: Novello & Co

Reflections on a Theme of William Walton (1985)
commissioned by the Guildhall String Ensemble with assistance from Legal & General Assurance
Novello & Co Ltd
Sub Category
String Orchestra
Year Composed
15 Minutes
Programme Note
Richard Rodney Bennett Reflections on a Theme of William Walton (1985)
William Walton was a composer to whose music I always felt very close. The 78s of his Viola Concerto were among the first records given to me by my parents, when I
was about 11 years old, along with Lambert's Rio Grande and Britten's Serenade for tenor, horn and strings. I wrote my Commedia I (for the same instrumental forces as
Façade) to celebrate Walton's 70th birthday - 29 March 1971- which was, incidentally, my own 36th birthday.
Reflections was commissioned by the Guildhall String Ensemble and is dedicated to Walton's memory. It takes as its 'theme' the 12-tone series from the last movement of Walton's Second Symphony - although Reflections is not a 12-tone work.
The series: G, B flat, D, E flat, A, F sharp, C sharp, C natural, E, F, B, G sharp
consists of three triads, G minor, F sharp minor and E major, each having an extra note (E flat, C natural and F natural) appended to it in a semitonal relationship. This major-minor tonal feeling with gentle semitonal dissonances pervades the harmonic world of my piece, while all the melodic material is derived in some way from Walton's series.
The work begins with a very simple presentation of the 'theme', which acts as a Prelude. This is followed by three variations (Pochissimo pili mosso, Vivo, Dolce Elegiaco); them comes an Interlude (Capriccioso) characterised by a flexible tempo and much use of pizzicato and glissando. Two further variations (Presto scherzando, Adagio) lead to a quiet Postlude in which the 'theme' is recapitulated even more simply than before.
The work lasts about fourteen and a half minutes and was written in New York City in March 1985.

  • Ensemble
    RTE National Symphony Orchestra
    Martin Jones
    David Angus
‘Reflections on a Theme of William Walton’, which opened this string orchestra concert, chose as its source one of Walton’s flirtations with 12-note composing. Midway, Bennett’s score unexpectedly turns it into a wrong-note variant of the Pink Panther theme, but most of the time it maintains a restless, edgy atmosphere, beautifully varied in orchestral layout, typical of its composer.
Robert Maycock, The Independent,29/03/2006
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