Symphony No. 2 (Walton)

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The Symphony No. 2 by English composer William Walton was commissioned by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society to celebrate the city's 750th anniversary in 1957. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by John Pritchard gave the first performance on 2 September 1960 at the Edinburgh Festival. George Szell gave the Continental Premiere with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam on 19 November 1960. Szell also conducted the US Premiere of the work on 29 December 1960 with the Cleveland Orchestra in that city and a few months later they made its first recording. Leopold Stokowski gave the work another early Continental performance in Vienna in May 1961 while on tour with the London Symphony Orchestra.

The work is in three movements.

  1. Allegro molto
  2. Lento assai
  3. Passacaglia: Theme, Variations, Fugato, and Coda-Scherzando

It is scored for a large symphony orchestra comprising 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 3 oboes (3rd doubling cor anglais), 3 clarinets (2nd doubling clarinet in E-flat, 3rd doubling bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (3rd doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, military drum, snare drum, crash cymbals, suspended cymbal, bass drum, glockenspiel, vibraphone, xylophone, tambourine, bell, piano, celesta, 2 harps and strings.

The symphony was the subject of harsh press criticism on account of its seemingly conservative style at a time when the European avant-garde style was in its ascendance. With time, however, it has been recognised[1] as a mature, subtle and superbly crafted work with many refinements of orchestration, a characteristic of this composer.[2] The finale is notable for its use of a twelve-tone note-row, a device used in twelve-tone technique.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Kennedy, Michael (1989). Portrait of Walton. Oxford University Press. pp 211–214