Johannesburg Festival Overture
In January 1956, Walton received a commission from Ernest Fleischmann, musical director of the Johannesburg Festival Committee, to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the city. Fleischmann included in his request to “include some African themes”.
Walton composed the overture between February and the end of May 1956, and revised it before publication in 1958 and revised it again after that. For inspiration he requested recordings of African music from the African Music Society. The effect of these recordings can be heard with three percussionists performing on eleven instruments. The composer also incorporated the main theme from Jean Bosco Mwenda’s "Masanga" (which had been released on record in 1954).
Walton described the piece to his publisher as “a non-stop gallop...slightly crazy, hilarious and vulgar”.
Instrumentation and durationEdit
Three flutes (third doubling piccolo), two oboes, cor anglais, three clarinets in A, three bassoons (third doubling contrabassoon) – four horns in F, three trumpets in B-flat, three trombones, tuba – timpani, three or four percussion (side drum, cymbals, suspended cymbal, bass drum, xylophone, tambourine, triangle, tenor drum, maracas, rumba sticks, castanets, glockenspiel) – harp – strings.
The piece takes about seven minutes to perform.
Vilém Tauský arranged a reduced orchestra version in 1957.
The composer recorded the work with the Philharmonia Orchestra on 26 March 1957.
- Kennedy, Michael. Portrait of Walton. Oxford University Press, 1990, pp. 195–196.
- Lloyd, Stephen. William Walton: Muse of Fire. The Boydell Press, 2001. pp. 229, 244, 257, 307.
- North, James H. New York Philharmonic: The Authorized Recordings, 1917–2005. The Scarecrow Press, 2006, pp. 120 & 341.
- Tierney, Neil. William Walton: His Life and Time. Robert Hale, 1984, p. 202.