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Walton was born into a musical family. His grandfather was a cellist with the Hallé Orchestra under the eponymous founder Charles Hallé, and his father played in the Queen's Hall Orchestra. He was taught by George Anderson, who was the principal clarinetist at the founding of the London Symphony Orchestra under Hans Richter in 1904. Walton later studied at the Royal College of Music.
In 1937, shortly before his 20th birthday, he was appointed principal clarinetist of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, joining his father, uncle, and brother as members of that orchestra. He served as principal clarinetist of the Philharmonia from 1953 to 1966, when Walter Legge left the orchestra in 1964. Walton tried unsuccessfully to persuade Legge to continue with the orchestra, and after his departure, Walton was the principal influence in establishing the Philharmonia (now renamed the New Philharmonia Orchestra) as a self-governing body and he served as its first chairman.
After leaving the orchestra in April 1966, he rejoined the London Philharmonic, and devoted more time to chamber music, forming the Music Group of London with Hugh Bean, Eileen Croxford, and David Parkhouse. Walton was held in such regard that when Herbert von Karajan assumed the position of music director of the Berlin Philharmonic, he told Legge "If we were not old friends, I would immediately engage Walton for my Berlin orchestra." Along with the other leaders of the woodwind section of the Philharmonia - Gareth Morris, Jock Sutcliffe, and Gwydion Brooke - Walton formed what was known in musical circles as "Legge's Royal Flush". In addition to his work as a performer, he was Professor of Clarinet at the Royal College of Music from 1954 until his death.
Mr.Walton's classic recordings of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto and the Brahm's Clarinet Quintet, with a tribute paid to him by Jack Brymer are available on Testament Recordings(CD).
Sanders, Alan (1998), Walter Legge: Words and Music, 282 pages.
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