Hyperion Records

Walton met Mstislav Rostropovich at the 1970 Aldeburgh Festival when the latter had played Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante in the same concert that Walton’s Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten received its British premiere. They became friends after a good-humoured exchange of banter during which Walton asked Rostropovich when he was going to play his cello concerto, and the latter replied by issuing a challenge – if Walton wrote him a new work then he would play both it and the concerto! Almost a decade later, in 1979, Walton started work on a short piece for solo cello intended for Rostropovich, but progress was desperately protracted since he found composing more and more difficult in his old age.

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

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDA67340 track 12
Recording date
3 February 2002
Recording venue
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Walton: Chamber Music (CDA67340)
    Disc 1 Track 12
    Release date: September 2002
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