Alan Walker (musicologist)

Alan Walker, FRSC (born 6 April 1930[1]) is an English-Canadian musicologist and university professor best known as a biographer and scholar of composer Franz Liszt. Walker has also written on composers Robert Schumann and Frédéric Chopin, as well as conductor Hans von Bülow. He has held posts at a variety of institutions, including the Guildhall School of Music, the University of London, McMaster University and City, University of London.

Alan Walker
Born (1930-04-06) 6 April 1930 (age 94)
Scunthorpe, England

Biography edit

Walker was born in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire.[1] He received an LGSM certificate in 1949,[1] ARCM in 1950,[1] a Bachelor of Music from University of Durham in 1956,[1] and a Doctor of Music in 1965.[1] Between 1957 and 1960 he studied privately with Hans Keller, an association which he has always acknowledged as formative. These lessons were resumed, albeit irregularly, once Walker joined Keller at the BBC in 1961.

From 1958 to 1961 Walker lectured at the Guildhall School of Music,[1] having studied piano there with Alfred Nieman,[1] noted for teaching improvisational techniques.[2] He also taught at the University of London from 1954 to 1960.[3] Walker worked at the BBC Radio Music Division as a producer between 1961 and 1971.[1] Seeking to return to his "first love", teaching,[4] he gave up radio production and took an appointment as Professor of Music at McMaster University[1] in Hamilton, Ontario, where he chaired the department of music from 1971 to 1980, and from 1989 to 1995.[1] In 1981, he was responsible for the establishment at McMaster of the first graduate program in music criticism in Canada.[1] Since 1995, he has been professor emeritus at McMaster.[5] From 1984 to 1987, he was a distinguished visiting professor of music at City University in London.[3]

His three-volume biography of Franz Liszt, which took him 25 years to complete, has been very influential. Common adjectives attached to the work include "monumental"[6][7] and "magisterial",[8] and it is said to have "unearthed much new material and provided a strong stimulus for further research".[8] Walker himself says that when he found, as a BBC producer compiling notes for program announcers, that "there wasn't a decent book in English on Liszt", he eventually decided to write one himself, but was determined "not to make a major statement that couldn't be supported by documents ... and because Liszt himself was a traveller the archives were everywhere."[4]

The first volume won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in biography for 1983[9] and best book on music from the Yorkshire Post Newspapers in 1984.[1] The three-book series was given the Royal Philharmonic Society Book Award in 1998.[10]

Time magazine praised the biography as "a textured portrait of Liszt and his times without rival", saying that Walker's work was "equally strong on the music and the life", and discussed Liszt's corpus "with greater understanding and clarity than any previous biographer".[11] The New York Times, reviewing the second volume, said of Walker's passion for his subject, "Mr. Walker can see only the good, and will stand for no criticism of his hero", but still called Walker's extensive research "incredible.... Mr. Walker seems to know everything about Liszt, and anything connected with Liszt, during every single day of the long life of that genius."[12] The Washington Post music critic Tim Page, including the third volume in his best books of the year list, called it "unquestionably a landmark" and "meticulously detailed, passionately argued and sometimes wrenchingly moving".[13]

The technique of biography, and how it differs from other literary genres, has always been of interest to Walker and he has written about it. When asked about the genesis of his Liszt biography he wrote: “I had always been immensely attracted to Liszt’s magnetic personality, and in my childhood I was drawn to the legend of his piano playing as to few other topics. They say that in every biography is an autobiography trying to get out. The idea would be diverting if it were not so sobering. I have come to believe that the best biographies choose their biographers, not vice versa. The lucky biographers write their work not because they have a choice but because they have no choice at all.” [14]

Walker has also written substantially about Robert Schumann and Frédéric Chopin, and continues to lecture in Canada, the US, and UK on all three musicians. In October 2018 he brought to completion a large-scale biography of Fryderyk Chopin, a book on which he worked for ten years. It has been described as “a biographical masterpiece”,[15] and was named Classical Music Book of the Year by the Sunday Times of London.[16] James Penrose in The New Criterion wrote: “With Liszt, and now Fryderyk Chopin so well cared for, one can but hope that Walker will try for the hat trick.”[17] On the other hand, he was also criticised for downplaying or idiosyncratically interpreting private aspects of Chopin's life, such as the erotic letters to men.[18][19][20][21]

Walker lives in Ancaster, Ontario.[3] He is director of "The Great Romantics", an annual festival in Hamilton, Ontario.[22]

Honours edit

  • Honorary Fellow of the Guildhall School of Music, 1974.[1]
  • Hungarian Liszt Society Medal, 1980[3]
  • American Liszt Society Medal, 1984[3]
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, 1986[1]
  • Pro Cultura Hungaria Medal (Government of Hungary), 1995[3]
  • Honorary D.Litt. (honoris causa) from McMaster University, 2002[3]
  • Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, 2012[23]

Books edit

  • A Study in Musical Analysis, 1962.
  • An Anatomy of Musical Criticism, 1966.
  • Symposium on Chopin (editor), 1967.
  • Symposium on Liszt (editor), 1970.
  • Franz Liszt: The Man and His Music. New York: Taplinger Publishing, 1970. ISBN 0-8008-2990-5.
  • Robert Schumann: The Man and His Music, 1972. ISBN 0-214-66805-3.
  • Symposium on Schumann (editor), 1972.
  • Franz Liszt: v. 1. The Virtuoso Years, 1811-1847. Hardcover publisher Knopf, 1983, Softcover publisher Ithaca: Cornell University Press and revised, 1987. ISBN 0-394-52540-X for all three hardcover. ISBN 0-8014-9421-4 for v. 1 revised.
  • Franz Liszt: v. 2. The Weimar Years, 1848-1861. Knopf and Cornell University Press (no new material), 1989. Revised ISBN 0-8014-9721-3.
  • Liszt, Carolyne, and the Vatican: The Story of a Thwarted Marriage, as it emerges from the original Church documents edited and translated by Gabriele Erasmi, 1991.[24]
  • The Diary of Carl Lachmund: An American Pupil of Liszt (editor), 1995.
  • Franz Liszt: v. 3. The Final Years, 1861-1886. Knopf and Cornell University Press, 1996 and 1997. Cornell edition has ISBN 0-8014-8453-7.
  • The Death of Franz Liszt: Based on the Unpublished Diary of his Pupil Lina Schmalhausen (editor). Cornell University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8014-4076-9.
  • Reflections on Liszt, 2005.
  • Hans von Bülow: a Life and Times, OUP, 2009.
  • Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times, 2018

Articles edit

Walker has written over 100 articles for scholarly music journals,[3] and provided the biographical entry on Liszt for Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2001).[3] Journal articles include:

  • 'Schoenberg's Classical Background', Music Review, xix (1958), 283–9.
  • 'Aesthetics versus Acoustics', The Score, No.27, July 1960.
  • 'Back to Schönberg', Music Review, xxi (1960), 140–47.
  • 'Liszt and the Beethoven Symphonies', Music Review, xxxi (1970), 302–14.
  • 'Liszt's Duo Sonata', Musical Times, cxvi (1975), 620–21.
  • 'Schumann, Liszt, and the C major Fantasie, op. 17', Music and Letters, vol. 60, 1979.
  • 'Music and the Unconscious', British Medical Journal, 22 December 1979.
  • 'Personal View [Infant prodigies]', British Medical Journal, 13 September 1980.
  • 'Liszt and Vienna', New Hungarian Quarterly, No.99 (1985), 253–9; repr. in Journal of the American Liszt Society, No.xix (1986), 10–20.
  • 'A Boy Named Daniel', Hungarian Quarterly, vol. 27, Autumn 1986.
  • 'Liszt and Agnes Street-Klindworth: A Spy in the Court of Weimar?', Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungarica, vol. 28, 1986.
  • 'Schopenhauer and Music', The Piano Quarterly, vol. 144, Winter 1988–89.
  • 'Liszt and the Schubert Song Transcriptions', Musical Quarterly, lxvii (1981), 50–63; lxxv (1991), 248–62.
  • 'Joukowsky's Portraits of Liszt', Hungarian Quarterly, vol. 34, Summer 1993.
  • 'Liszt and his Pupils', Hungarian Quarterly, vol. 36, Summer 1995.
  • 'Tribute to Hans Keller', Canadian University Music Review, xvii (1996), 118–28.
  • 'Liszt and the Lied'", Hungarian Quarterly, vol. 37, Winter 1996.
  • "Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960): A Tribute", Hungarian Quarterly, vol. 43, Spring 2002.
  • "Dohnányi Redeemed", Hungarian Quarterly, vol. 43, Autumn 2002.

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Walker, Alan". Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Retrieved 7 December 2006.
  2. ^ Stige, Brynjulf (1999). "Healing Heritage: Exploring the Tonal Language of Paul Nordoff". Nordic Journal of Music Therapy. 8 (2): 214–217. Archived from the original on 16 October 2006. Retrieved 7 December 2006. Via Barcelona Publishers website.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Alan Walker: Finding Aids". The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections, McMaster University. Archived from the original on 6 November 2006. Retrieved 7 December 2006.
  4. ^ a b "Dr. Alan Walker". McMaster University. Archived from the original on 7 February 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2006.
  5. ^ "Four to receive honorary doctorates at Fall Convocation November 9". McMaster University. 5 November 2001. Archived from the original on 28 June 2006. Retrieved 7 December 2006.
  6. ^ Zimdars, Richard (2004). "Book Review The Death of Franz Liszt". American Music Teacher.
  7. ^ Hamburger, Klára (2005). "Death in Bayreuth: An Unknown Document about the Death of Franz Liszt". Hungarian Quarterly (Winter). Archived from the original on 20 March 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2006.
  8. ^ a b "The Cambridge Companion to Liszt". Cambridge Companions to Music. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 7 December 2006.
  9. ^ "The Prize Winners". University of Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 15 January 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2006.
  10. ^ "RPS Music Awards". Royal Philharmonis Society. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013.
  11. ^ Ravetz, Elliot (2 September 1996). "The Book of Liszts: Finally, a Biography that Does Justice to All Facets of Franz Liszt's Messy Life and Protean Work". Time Magazine. Archived from the original on 30 March 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2006.
  12. ^ Schonberg, Harold C. (14 July 1989). "Books of The Times; A Scholarly Crusader for Fran Liszt". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 December 2006.
  13. ^ Page, Tim (8 December 1996). "Informed Opinions: Experts Pick Their Favorites". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 December 2006.
  14. ^ The Hungarian Quarterly. Franz Liszt: A Biographer’s Journey, Spring 2011, vol. LII, p. 45.
  15. ^ May, Patrick (11 November 2018). "A Biographical Masterpiece". Music and Arts. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  16. ^ Duchen, Jessica (4 November 2018). "Review: Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times by Alan Walker — a virtuoso performance". The Times.
  17. ^ Penrose, James (January 2019). "Dying all his life". New Criterion.
  18. ^ Walker, Alan (2018). Fryderyk Chopin: a life and times. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. pp. 156–158. ISBN 978-0-374-15906-1.
  19. ^ L'AVENÇ. "Va ser homosexual, Chopin?". (in Catalan). Retrieved 16 July 2023.
  20. ^ Fonseca-Wollheim, Corinna da (19 November 2018). "An Ingenious Frédéric Chopin". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 July 2023.
  21. ^ Weber, Moritz (13 January 2022). "AKT I / ACTO I / ACT I Männer / Hombres / Men Chopins Männer / Los hombres de Chopin / Chopin's Men". Itamar. Revista de investigación musical: Territorios para el arte (in German): 435, 445. ISSN 2386-8260.
  22. ^ "Roots & Legacy: Alan Walker". University of Georgia. Archived from the original on 13 February 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2006. A Celebration of Liszt and Matthay, presented by the American Liszt Society and the American Matthay Association.
  23. ^ "Outstanding Hungarian Award to Professor Alan Walker". Archived from the original on 6 August 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  24. ^ Library of Congress catalog

External links edit