The work, titled Passacaglia, was completed the following year. Walton had in mind Bach’s works for solo cello whilst composing it and considered it more suitable for private rather than public performance. Rostropovich gave the premiere in London on 16 March 1982 as part of the composer’s eightieth birthday celebrations. It comprises a sombre theme followed by ten variations. The first three inhabit the instrument’s lower register, whilst the fourth soars to reach the highest. Variations five and six are faster, and in the seventh pizzicato chords accompany an expressive melodic line. The eighth and ninth combine to make a characteristic fleet and rhythmic Waltonian scherzo, and the work ends in a fast and furious plethora of notes.
from notes by Andrew Burn © 2002