(1922, rev. 1947 – 48)
Façade marked the entry upon the English musical scene of a young man who might be thought an unlikely candidate to become one of the foremost twentieth-century British composers. The heavily jazz-influenced music and often incomprehensible spoken words fell as a cacophony on the ears of those present, like nothing they had heard before.
William Turner Walton, the second of four children, was born on March 29, 1902, to a Lancashire choirmaster and singing teacher and his wife, also a singer. Young Willie sang in local choirs but had very little formal musical training. His mother somehow managed to secure him a place in the Christ Church Cathedral choir at Oxford, borrowing money for the train journey to Oxford from the local greengrocer. He began scribbling tunes for the choir from age eleven, even trying some part-songs. He became an undergraduate at Oxford's Christ Church College, but was admittedly an undistinguished student whose efforts to learn musical instruments were generally in vain. He said of himself (in Tony Palmer's film, At the Haunted End of Day, made the year before Walton's death in 1983) that after his voice broke he decided that if he wanted to stay at school perhaps he had better write something, so at sixteen he began writing his Piano Quartet.
The greatest benefit of his Oxford years was meeting the Sitwells: Sacheverell, Osbert, and Edith. Walton met Sacheverell first, who shortly brought his brother Osbert to hear the Piano Quartet (badly played), and the two men (themselves undergraduates) decided young Walton was a genius. After failing his exams and wondering what to do next, Walton was invited to spend a few days with the Sitwells in London, where he stayed for fifteen years. Tall and gangly, the shy northerner "adopted" by the wealthy Sitwells must have found his golden opportunity finally to lose his hated accent and become a sophisticated Londoner.
"Edith Sitwell wrote her Façade poems as studies in word-rhythms and onomatopoeia," writes Michael Kennedy, Walton's biographer. Each of the Sitwells claimed the inspiration of setting the poems to music for a sort of drawing room entertainment but it was a natural idea, as they had a house composer. The poems, abstract, with references from Queen Victoria to Greek goddesses to English music halls and Spanish lovers, are full of "dissonances and assonances" with some allusions to the poet's unhappy childhood as well as to her birth by wild seas (at Scarborough). The witty music takes its tone from the poems, following the idea that Sitwell was writing primarily for sound, rather than meaning, and echoing those sounds. Osbert Sitwell claimed the idea of having the poems spoken into a Sengerphone (a megaphone-like device invented by Herr Senger to magnify the voice of the bass singing the dragon Fafner in Wagner's Siegfried) thrust through a painted curtain. The first performance in 1922, called by Osbert Sitwell "an entertainment for artists and people of imagination," featured eighteen poems spoken by Edith Sitwell, accompanied by four musicians (clarinet, cello, trumpet, percussion) conducted by the composer, before an audience of about twenty people.
The reception was, naturally, mixed, but another private performance was arranged in two weeks' time and the first public performance took place in 1923. For this event there were ten new numbers and two more musicians (one playing flute and piccolo, the other alto saxophone). The press was hostile but the audience enthusiastic and performances continued. In 1926 the second version of Façade was performed, with Walton's friend and fellow composer Constant Lambert replacing Sitwell as narrator and the accompaniments arranged more simply. (The early clarinet part was called unplayable and prompted the clarinetist to ask Walton if a clarinet player had ever done him any harm.) Further changes were made until 1942, when the definitive version of twenty-one poems was presented, containing only six of the original poems. In 1947 – 48 Walton took back the score, changed the order of the songs, and made various musical amendments; the score was finally published in 1951. Kennedy says that "in 1977 some previously unpublished numbers were performed to mark Walton's seventy-fifth birthday. … For the 1979 Aldeburgh Festival the composer reworked some of these (poems which had been dropped earlier) and other numbers as Façade 2."
Façade has been performed as a ballet, two orchestral suites (by the composer), and songs and continues to be presented as an entertainment for narrator(s) and musicians. Several suites and songs have been arranged by other composers. Not necessarily music typical of later Walton, it nevertheless displays his characteristic sense of rhythm and elegant style and remains one of his most popular compositions.
Façade, described by Constant Lambert in Music Ho as having one good tune after another, begins with a brief fanfare which sets the tone, then moves quickly into the Hornpipe, for which Walton used a jaunty sea shanty. (The music, except for the Hornpipe, is mostly original although the Tango – Pasodoble, which Walton considered one of the best of the pieces, is a parody of a popular music hall song: I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside.) En Famille, like Through Gilded Trellises and other pieces sprinkled throughout, is languid, evoking birdsong and the summer walks. Edith Sitwell wrote, in Last Years of a Rebel: "Long Steel Grass is in fact called Trio for two cats and a Trombone. It is about a couple of cats, do you see, having a love affair." The sinuous music is suggestive of cats in the nighttime.
Lambert praises the tarantella and the waltz (Numbers 9 and 16) as excellent examples of each type of music. Polka is a lively polka, with the sound of a hurdy-gurdy heard as the lyrics mention that instrument beloved of the Victorians, and the Jodelling Song's reference to William Tell could hardly be more deliberately Alpine.
Our attention is demanded by the trumpet and clarinet beginning Something Lies Beyond the Scene, which shortly turns into a jazzy romp. Others in which the music clearly carries out lyrics and title include Popular Song and Scotch Rhapsody, with a definite Scotch snap and the clear sound of bagpipes when they are mentioned in the poem. The popular Fox-Trot 'Old Sir Falk' refers to the father of Edith's childhood friends who was tall and stork-like (but who may not have danced a fox trot!).
References to the sea abound throughout, both in the poems in which water is mentioned and generally. These poems and music are meant to be savored as sound – meanings unclear or abstract, but beautifully integrated.
Copyright © 2002 by Jane Erb
- In 1918 Edith Sitwell had begun publishing some of the Façade poems she would later (1950) collect in book form, and in early 1922 she and Walton collaborated in Façade – An Entertainment in a private performance. They gave the first public performance in June 1923.
- The performance consisted of her declaiming her verse – experimental in the meaningful nonsense style of Lewis Carroll – from behind a screen while Walton conducted an instrumental sextet in a sassy score full of allusions and quotations.
- Of the public performance, Ernest Newman wrote in The Sunday Times that “as a musical joker [Walton] is a jewel of the first order” and the music soon became very popular. Many versions, revisions, and adaptations followed, including this Suite No. 2 in 1938.
Composed: 1922; 1938
Length: c. 10 minutes
Orchestration: 2 flutes (2nd = piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, clarinet, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, trombone, percussion (snare drum, suspended cymbals, castanets, triangle, temple blocks, bass drum), and strings
First LA Phil performance: August 13, 1953, William Walton conducting
In Walton’s career and music, the modern gesture and the traditional tune, the unconventional form and the establishment commission, co-existed equably, not as conflicting paradoxes but as mutually supporting elements of an eclectic whole. The son of professional singers, he entered the Cathedral Choir School at Christ Church, Oxford, and then the college itself. But he never graduated, and turned from traditionally-rooted choral music to jazzy instrumental works. At age 19 he composed Façade, and when Edith Sitwell herself shouted her verses through a megaphone at the London premiere two years later, Walton scored his first success/scandal.
Walton had become friends with Sitwell’s brother Sacheverell at Oxford, and at his invitation came to join the Sitwell family in London in 1920. “I went for a few weeks,” Walton later wrote, “and stayed about 15 years.” During this time he was something of a Sitwell protégé, meeting Stravinsky and Gershwin through their circle, and studying music with Ernest Ansermet and Ferruccio Busoni.
In 1918 Edith Sitwell had begun publishing some of the Façade poems she would later (1950) collect in book form, and in early 1922 she and Walton collaborated in Façade – An Entertainment in a private performance. This consisted of her declaiming her verse – experimental in the meaningful nonsense style of Lewis Carroll – from behind a screen while Walton conducted an instrumental sextet in a sassy score full of allusions and quotations. (Walton also notated the rhythms for the recitation.) They gave the first public performance in June 1923. It was generally panned in the press, but Ernest Newman wrote in The Sunday Times that “as a musical joker [Walton] is a jewel of the first order” and the music soon became very popular. Walton orchestrated five of the numbers in 1926 as the Suite No. 1, and that was used as the basis for Günter Hess’ ballet for German Chamber Dance Theater in 1929 and, most significantly, Frederick Ashton’s very successful 1931 ballet. Many versions, revisions, and adaptations followed, including this Suite No. 2 in 1938.
John Henken is Publications Editor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.
Local records of the parish of Eckington in northeast Derbyshire show that there were Sitwells living there as far back as the year 1301; they are still there, though now imposingly housed in Renishaw Hall. The family that had once been ironmasters and mine-owners had, by the end of the nineteenth century, produced a generation of poets and authors. These were the three children of the redoubtable Sir George Sitwell, Bart., and his beautiful but spoilt wife, Lady Ida: Edith (b1887), Osbert (b1892) and Sacheverell (b1897) who, for much of the first half of the twentieth century, were at the very hub of all that was artistic and avant garde in London. Quite apart from their considerable literary gifts and love of all aspects of the arts, they were distinguished by an innate ability to appreciate quality and style and, in the case of Edith, by a pronounced streak of eccentricity inherited from her father.
Eccentricity can take many forms, but it is surely found at its purest in the upper reaches of society where otherwise impeccable manners and behaviour can be accompanied by traits that come close to betraying mental derangement. Sir George typified this to a considerable degree. A single example must suffice. In December 1914 his eldest son and heir Osbert, a 22-year-old second lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards, was posted to France to join the front-line trenches, shortly after an attack in which his battalion had suffered severe losses. On arrival he found a letter from his father, full of concern for his wellbeing and liberal with advice:
… Directly you hear the first shell, retire … to the Undercroft [cellar], and remain there quietly until all firing has ceased. Even then, a bombardment, especially as one grows older, is a strain upon the nervous system – but the best remedy for that, as always, is to keep warm and have plenty of plain, nourishing food at frequent but regular intervals. And, of course, plenty of rest. I find a nap in the afternoon most helpful, if not unduly prolonged, and I advise you to try it whenever possible.
Small wonder that when Sir George’s ungainly and unloved daughter began to write poetry and get it published, it would display qualities that were mistaken for pure eccentricity. The essential practicality of Edith’s nature was never far from the surface, however, and in 1914 this enabled her to achieve independence from the tyranny she experienced at home and move to the unfashionable district of Bayswater in London, where she lived for many years.
Within a few months of the end of the First World War the youngest of the trio, Sacheverell (known to all as Sachie), had enrolled as an undergraduate at Oxford, where his friend the poet Siegfried Sassoon happened to be living at the time. By chance Sassoon introduced him to a pale, thin and inarticulate young man from Lancashire. William Walton, having had to leave the choir of Christ Church Cathedral when his voice broke, was working for his B.Mus. and making his second attempt to pass the general subjects exam of Responsions. Something about the young Walton – and this decidedly was not his ham-fisted attempts to play his compositions at the piano – impressed Sachie. He introduced him to other artistically-minded undergraduates and alerted his brother, who in 1916 had been invalided out of the army and was back in London. Osbert promptly went up to Oxford to meet the young composer. He too realized that behind the unimpressive exterior and manner there might be a real talent to foster, with the result that when Walton had to be ‘sent down’ for failing Responsions a third time he was invited to occupy a room in the top storey of the house where Osbert and Sachie lived in the Chelsea district of London. In November 1919 they moved to a more imposing house in Carlyle Square, which adjoins the Kings Road, and again the young Walton (invariably known at that time as Willie) occupied a garret room where he stayed for most of the day, composing fitfully at his piano.
The poetic output of the three Sitwell siblings continued to grow apace; even Sachie had his first volume of poetry published in 1918 when he was only twenty. Edith’s verse was by far the most striking, and her individual voice became even more pronounced when in 1921 she began to experiment with what she later, somewhat opaquely, described as ‘enquiries into the effect on rhythm, and on speed, of the use of rhymes, assonances and dissonances, placed outwardly and inwardly (at different places in the line) and in most elaborate patterns … There are experiments, also, in texture, in the subtle variations of thickness and thinness brought about in assonances, by the changing of a consonant or labial, from word to word.’ As an example of what she calls her ‘transcendental technique’ Edith quotes a line from ‘Fox-trot’:
Among the pheasant-feathered corn the unicorn has torn, forlorn the
Some of these new verses had already been given currency and not been unreservedly appreciated. According to Osbert, a painter passed judgment on his sister in the words ‘Very clever, no doubt – but what is she but a façade!’. The young Sitwells were delighted by this comment, and Edith used it as the title of her next slim volume of verse. At the same time both brothers considered that it might be appropriate to have certain of the poems provided with a musical accompaniment, and the obvious composer for this task was their lodger, Willie. At first Walton demurred, doubtless feeling that this experimental form of poetry was beyond his comprehension, but he was eventually persuaded to cooperate. Sachie later made the acute observation: ‘I would not say that WTW, to call him by his initials, was a fervent lover of poetry, but he was attuned to them, and had, when directed to them, an instinctive understanding.’
Edith must have made a number of journeys from Bayswater to her brothers’ Chelsea house in the autumn of 1921, for Osbert records: ‘I remember very well the rather long sessions, lasting for two or three hours, which my sister and the composer used to have, when together they read the words, she going over them again and again, while he marked and accented them for his own guidance, to show where the precise stress and emphasis fell, the exact inflection or deflection.’
Walton set sixteen poems and also provided them with an Overture and Interlude. His chosen instrumental ensemble consisted of flute (doubling piccolo), clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), trumpet, cello and percussion. The Sitwells were sufficiently excited by the result to arrange a private performance of this novel conception which, nevertheless, had distinguished older cousins in the form of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and the Satie/Cocteau Diaghilev ballet Parade. In consequence a Sitwell coterie assembled in the L-shaped first floor drawing-room of 2 Carlyle Square on the evening of 24 January 1922. What they were about to hear was strange enough, but the manner of its presentation took matters a stage further. Osbert was clearly influenced by Parade, for which Picasso had designed a front drop, and therefore decided that the performers had to be hidden behind a specially designed curtain through which a megaphone (as in Parade) protruded. This, according to Edith, was not only ‘because it was obviously impossible for the speaker’s voice, unaided, to be heard above the sound of the instruments’ but also ‘to deprive the work of any personal quality (apart from the personality inherent in the poems and music).’ Sachie favoured the idea of using a Sengerphone, the instrument that had been devised to amplify the voice of the dragon Fafner in Wagner’s Siegfried, and he and Walton went up to Hampstead to negotiate with its inventor, Herr Senger.
The weather during the rehearsals and day of the performance was bitterly cold, and at the end of the evening everybody had to be revived with hot rum punch. Osbert (also behind the curtain) introduced the proceedings; Edith recited through her Sengerphone, and Walton conducted his ad hoc ensemble, in the words of Osbert, ‘holding his baton with something of the air of an elegant and handsome snipe.’ He adds that ‘in the comparatively small drawing-room of Carlyle Square, the sheer volume of sound was overwhelming’ – something that later performers, even in more appropriate surroundings, have also discovered to their cost.
The ‘entertainment’ – for such it came to be termed when it was eventually published nearly thirty years later – aroused much interest and was considered to be both smart and experimental. Emboldened by this trial run, Edith and Walton, egged on by Osbert and Sachie, decided to revise and expand Façade. By the time of the first public performance, given on the afternoon of 12 June 1923 in the Aeolian Hall, four numbers had been discarded and a further sixteen (two purely instrumental) added. One characteristic feature of this revision was Walton’s decision to add an alto saxophone to his ensemble; this was just one element that contributed to the dance-band flavour that was to become such a conspicuous feature of certain numbers.
Because of the notoriety of the Sitwells, the event was given enormous coverage by the press, and was greeted with a mixture of mild contempt and sympathetic understanding. Edith’s largely incomprehensible verse and arch, mannered delivery from behind the curtain came in for much mocking comment, as did Osbert’s commentary, but the virtually unknown Walton’s contribution was generally admired. The anonymous Daily Mail critic praised ‘the extraordinarily stimulative running comment of Mr Waltons’s music. His musical invention is as original and witty as Miss Sitwell’s poetry and fits the rhythm of the spoken line as though words and music were cast in one mould. He manages to get a pleasing variety of colour out of the six instruments used, […] and this variety forms a valuable contrast to the deliberately monotonous chant of the recitation.’ This was all the more remarkable for, as Walton later recalled, the musical performance had been ‘a shambles’. The audience, which one paper described as consisting of ‘long-haired men, short-haired women’, seems to have been largely enthusiastic and demanded several encores, although Noel Coward found it all very pretentious and caused much offence by subsequently writing a skit on it.
One member of the audience was totally in tune with what he heard, and was to have a lifelong intimate connection with Façade in all its forms. In June 1923 Constant Lambert was still a 17-year-old student at the Royal College of Music but, as Osbert later described him, already ‘a prodigy of intelligence and learning’. Façade was right up his street, and as he was already known at 2 Carlyle Square he offered assistance, even advice, to Walton, who was three years his senior. According to a Lambert article of 1926, Walton spent most of 1923/4 writing and scoring foxtrots for a new band, so the influence of jazz and popular music that increasingly came to suffuse the new Façade numbers cannot just be put down to Lambert’s influence. But the fact remains that Lambert was passionate about this newly imported art form and may well have fanned the flames of Walton’s imagination.
There was a three-year gap before Facade was given again in public, but when this occurred there were significant differences. Seven new numbers were heard at the New Chenil Galleries on 27 April 1926, and a further three (possibly four) at a repeat performance there on June 29. What was notable was that Edith no longer took part in the performance. Possibly fearing that the ‘family’ aspect of the entertainment had gone too far in 1923, the Sitwells engaged the Old Vic actor Neil Porter to do the recitation. It would appear, however, that Mr Porter was the first of many subsequent narrators to discover that the task of reciting the texts to a tightly controlled accompaniment is far from easy, and it comes as no surprise to learn that young Constant Lambert took over quite a few of the numbers. By the time of the June performance Lambert was the sole narrator, and thereafter, even though Edith occasionally joined in, Lambert was acknowledged by the Sitwells and Walton as the ideal reciter.
Two performances of Façade (Lambert/Walton) were given at the ISCM Festival in Siena in 1928 (doubtless to the total incomprehension of the Italians), and it is believed that this was the occasion of the first performance of the final two numbers to be composed for Façade. In all, 43 of Edith’s poems had been set. In a 1928 article on the composer Lambert was the first to point out how Walton had imperceptibly turned his Façade assignment on its head. In most of the early numbers, such as ‘Madame Mouse Trots’, ‘Aubade’ and ‘Lullaby for Jumbo’, the instrumental accompaniment is sparse and unassertive and constitutes a gentle underpinning ‘with arabesque and timbre’ of the spoken text, which was intended to be predominant. Gradually all this changed, partly because of the choice of the verses that Walton set. It was a foregone conclusion that poems entitled ‘Tango’, ‘Country Dance’, ‘Polka’ and ‘Fox-trot’ were going to elicit music that was more melodious, rhythmic and catchy than ‘Madame Mouse Trots’ or ‘By the Lake’, and Walton did not muff his opportunity. By the time he came to write ‘Tarantella’ in 1926 the text was totally subordinated to the accompaniment; indeed Edith may well have written the verse to fit already existing music, as she later confirmed she sometimes did. This may not have been what the three Sitwells had intended at the outset of the project in 1921, but they had not reckoned with the imagination of the young man who was eventually to become Sir William Walton, OM, and it is clear that they went along with the transformation and basked in its ever-increasing success.
The growing popularity of Façade was given a significant boost when in February 1930 Decca released two 78-rpm records containing eleven numbers, with Edith and Lambert reciting and Walton conducting. Even before that, Walton had orchestrated four numbers to form the basis of the First Orchestral Suite from Façade; another seven were scored in the 1930s, and most of these were used by Frederick Ashton for his enormously popular ballet of the same name (masterminded and conducted by Lambert), which did as much as anything to make the title world-famous.
The twentieth anniversary of the first private performance of Façade was celebrated on 29 May 1942 by a performance (Lambert/Walton) given at the Aeolian Hall, for which John Piper designed his celebrated curtain (reproduced on the front of this CD), still with an opening for the Sengerphone. In fact this had by now been replaced by a microphone and loudspeaker, but even so Benjamin Britten, writing three days later to Peter Pears, reported that Lambert had been ‘completely inaudible’. The first part of the programme consisted of a rare performance of Pierrot Lunaire, in which twenty-one numbers are presented in a sequence of three times seven. Lambert suggested that the Façade numbers might also be restricted to just twenty-one (the fewest since Carlyle Square) so that they could be grouped as seven times three. This may be a typical instance of Lambertian tongue-in-cheek humour (it was he who used to refer to ‘Four in the Morning’ as ‘4 a.m.’), but it had far-reaching consequences, for when the Entertainment – as opposed to the already issued orchestral suites – was at last published in 1951, this pattern of seven times three was retained. Walton dedicated the score to Lambert who died, two days before his forty-sixth birthday, within a month of its publication.
For the celebrations marking his 75th birthday in March 1977 Walton was persuaded by his publishers to look again at the numbers that had not made the final cut in 1951. He selected eight, and they were performed under the provisional title Façade Revived. The following year Walton decided to replace three of them with different numbers; the result was the newly titled Façade 2. The three discarded numbers which had been included in Façade Revived were ‘Daphne’, ‘The Last Galop’ and ‘The White Owl’. ‘Small Talk’ had not been performed since 1926, but it remains complete in autograph form, unlike the ten other settings and one instrumental introduction which had been composed and performed, but which appear to have been lost (destroyed?) forever.
The present recording constitutes an attempt to present all the extant Façade material – that is to say the Façade Entertainment, Façade 2, and the four additional numbers mentioned above – in a new and, it is hoped, convincing performance order, shared between two speakers, which is the manner the joint authors, Edith Sitwell and William Walton, eventually came to prefer.
Lost or Incomplete Numbers
The numbers that were discarded from the Façade Entertainment by author and composer (who were probably also influenced by the comments of Osbert and Sacheverell) inevitably tend to be the earlier ones, especially those written before the appearance of Edith’s privately printed Façade volume of 1922. They are reproduced here, with a few elucidating comments, in order to complete the picture of the unique Sitwell/Walton Façade partnership.
The two performances referred to are Carlyle Square (first private performance, 24 January 1922) and Aeolian Hall (first public performance, 12 June 1923).
The Wind’s Bastinado
Poem first published in the 1922 Façade volume, after it had been given its only performance at Carlyle Square.
The wind’s bastinado
Whipt on the calico
Skin of the Macaroon
And the black Picaroon
Beneath the galloon
Of the midnight sky.
Came the great Soldan
In his sedan
Floating his fan –
Saw what the sly
In the barracoon
Held. Out they fly.
Comes out of Babylon:
Buy for a patacoon –
Sir, you must buy!’
Said Il Magnifico
Pulling a fico –
With a stoccado
and a gambado,
Making a wry
Face: ‘This corraceous
Fruit is a lie!
It is my friend King Pharaoh’s head
That nodding blew out of the Pyramid …’
… The tree’s small corinths
Were hard as jacinths
For it is winter and cold winds sigh …
In her farthingale
Of bunchèd leaves let her singing die.
First published in 1919, and performed at Carlyle Square. Alone of the discarded numbers, it was given two further performances.
By the blue wooden sea,
Coral and amber grots
(Cherries and apricots)
Ribbons of noisy heat,
Binding them head and feet,
Horses as fat as plums
Snort as each bumpkin comes.
Giggles like towers of glass
(Pink and blue spirals) pass,
Oh, how the Vacancy
Laughed at them rushing by!
‘Turn again, flesh and brain,
Only yourselves again!
How far above the Ape,
Differing in each shape,
You with your regular,
Meaningless circles are!’
Bank Holiday I
First published in 1920, and given its only performance at Carlyle Square. Both poems were printed in the programme but, like the other bipartite number ‘Small Talk’ bt, only one may have been set.
The houses on a seesaw rush
In the giddy sun’s hard spectrum push
The noisy heat’s machinery;
Like flags of coloured heat they fly.
The wooden ripples of the smiles
Suck down the houses, then at whiles,
Grown suctioned like an octopus,
They throw them up against us,
As we rush by on coloured bars
Of sense, vibrating flower-hued stars,
With lips like velvet drinks and winds
That bring strange Peris to our minds.
Bank Holiday II
Seas are roaring like a lion; with their wavy flocks Zion,
Noises like a scimitar,
Hair a brassy bar
The sun’s drum; though
Light green water’s swim their daughters, lashing with their eel-sleek-locks
Of mermaids that occurred,
Sinking to the cheap beds.
Legs, like trunks of tropical
Plants, rise up and, over all,
Green as a conservatory,
Is the light … another story …
It has grown too late for life:
Put on your gloves and take a drive!
First published in 1919, and given its only performance at Carlyle Square.
Green wooden leaves clap light away,
Severely practical, as they
Shelter the children, candy-pale.
The chestnut-candles flicker, fail …
The showman’s face is cubed clear as
The shapes reflected in a glass
Of water – (glog, glut, a ghost’s speech
Fumbling for space from each to each).
The fusty showman fumbles, must
Fit in a particle of dust
The universe, for fear it gain
Its freedom from my box of brain.
Yet dust bears seeds that grow to grace
Behind my crude-striped wooden face.
As I, a puppet tinsel-pink,
Leap on my springs, learn how to think,
Then like the trembling golden stalk
Of some long-petalled star, I walk
Through the dark heavens until dew
Falls on my eyes and sense thrills through.
First published in April 1923, and given its only performance in June of the same year at the Aeolian Hall.
The asses’ milk of the stars …
The milky spirals as they sank
From heaven’s saloons and golden bars,
Made a gown
On sands divine
By the asses’ hide of the sea
(With each tide braying free).
And the beavers building Babel
Beneath each tree’s thin beard,
Said, ‘Is it Cain and Abel
Fighting again we heard?’
It is Ass-face, Ass-face,
Drunk on the milk of the stars,
Who will spoil their houses of white lace –
Expelled from the golden bars!
Clown Argheb’s Song
First published in April 1923, and given its only performance in June of the same year at the Aeolian Hall.
Clown Argheb the honey-bee
Counted his money, ‘See
In the bandstand in Hell,
Buzzing, the tunes that fell
Raise up glass houses, round
Serres-chaudes as forcing-ground,
Lest bald heads harden
In Hell’s kitchen garden.’
Poet and pedagogue
Bump their bald heads, agog –
(Melon and marrow,
And cucumber narrow.)
Next day comes Proserpine,
Parasol raised, and ‘See,
Ma’am,’ says the gardener, ‘these
Thoughts are as thick as peas!’
So sighed the clown, singing
Buzz, and still clinging,
To no horizontal bars,
But the pink freezing stars!
First published as early as 1916 in a slim volume of poetry shared between Edith and Osbert. Performed in 1923 at the Aeolian Hall and repeated only once. This is clearly influenced by a poem of Rimbaud, on whom Edith’s ex-governess and companion Helen Rootham was an authority.
Castles of crystal,
Castles of wood,
Moving on pulleys
Just as you should!
See the gay people
Flaunting like flags,
Bells in the steeple,
Sky all in rags.
Bright as a parrot
Flaunts the gay heat –
Songs in the garret,
Fruit in the street;
Plump as a cherry,
Red as a rose,
Old Mother Berry –
Blowing her nose!
Reviewing the Aeolian Hall performance in a journal, the far from disinterested Helen Rootham wrote: ‘Mr. Walton gives us music which is not only clever as orchestration, but at moments is strangely and movingly beautiful. Could anything, for instance, be lovelier than the short “Serenade” which opened the fourth group …’, thereby suggesting that this number was purely musical and not a setting of an earlier poem of Edith’s of the same name.
Walton’s setting was given its only performance in 1923 at the Aeolian Hall. Like ‘The Last Galop’ the poem was never published in Edith’s lifetime and was only discovered in 1999 by the Sitwell scholar Neil Ritchie in one of her notebooks. Certain lines are identical to those in the poem ‘Noah’, which Edith published in 1920. As the poem displays many of the features of Edith’s ‘transcendental technique’ and would appear to have been one to which Walton’s musical imagination would have readily responded, the disappearance of this number is doubly sad.
Was a seaman rare,
He was fat as blubber and had sealskin hair
Waith a bonnetted North Pole he would hunt the bear,
Played a rubber
With the Grand Cham’s
The North Pole word
Blue seas for a bonnet
With a star’s rayed core
For a cockade upon it –
If they raced together, the Admiral won it
Till Kingdom come’
Noah through the waters
Sliding like an eel
With his long sleek daughters
Swimming at the keel
Slithered up Mount Ararat and climbed into the Ark
Where the dog-waves bark
At his hair dank, dark.
And fainted at the North Pole’s feet.
’Is it far
The equator’s bar?
I will take a glasses of brandy neat.’
But his youngest daughter
Piped like a crane ‘Drunk again! You have long lain
Where dog-waves bark at the Ark, danced the grand chain
From northern pole to south where the Grand Cham raised Cain
Playing pitch and toss with the land Atlantis,
Playing whist – each card is a King or Queen or Bard,’ cross
Gained said his daughter ‘Here’s another glass of water!
The Grand Cham
Goes grand slam –
He is not such a hard card
as I am.’
First published in April 1923, and given its only performance in June of the same year at the Aeolian Hall.
The fire was furry as a bear
And the flames purr …
The brown bear rambles in his chain
Captive to cruel men
Through the dark and hairy wood …
The maid sighed, ‘All my blood
Is animal. They thought I sat
Like a household cat;
But through the dark woods rambled I …
Oh, if my blood would die!’
The fire had a bear’s fur
It heard and knew …
The dark earth furry as a bear,
Not a lost number but an incomplete one. Unlike the poems listed above, this one would appear to belong to a later period, namely around 1926, the year in which it was performed for the only time. The poem was published in 1927. Two incomplete Walton autographs exist, the longer of which represents probably about a third of the number. The poem develops certain lines and ideas from ‘Gardener Janus Catches a Naiad’ . In a 1972 essay on Façade Sacheverell Sitwell wrote: ‘… there were additions and deletions. Among the latter were the ‘Mazurka’, of which I preferred the music to the poem.’ Could it be that the knowledge of such an opinion at the time caused Edith to have the number suppressed? The loss is ours for, to judge by its opening bars, the number would surely have formed a worthy addition to Walton’s other settings of poems with dance titles.
God Pluto is a kindly man; the children ran:
‘Come help us with the games our dames ban.’
He drinks his beer and builds his forge, as red as George
The Fourth his face is that the flames tan.
Like baskets of ripe fruit the bird-songs’ oaten flutes
All honeyed yellow sound in air, where
Among the hairy leaves fall trills of dew and sheaves
Are tasting of fresh green anew. Flare
His flames as tall
As Windsor Castle, all
Balmoral was not higher.
Like feathered masks and peas in pots and castled trees
Walled gardens of the seas, the flames seemed all of these.
As red and green as
Petticoats of queans
Among the flowering
Bloom …. ‘Come rest and be!
I care for nobody, not I, the world can be, – and
no one cares for me!,
In the lane, Hattie,
Flames like Balmoral
From feathered doxies
Blow up like boxes
Cram full of matches, –
Each yells and scratches.
Flames green and yellow spirt from lips and eyes and skirt,
The leaves like chestnut horses’ ears rear .
Ladies, though my forge has made me red as George
The Fourth, such flames we know not here, dear!
The above notes draw on material derived from the critical edition of the Façade Entertainments, edited by David Lloyd-Jones with a preface by Stewart Craggs (Volume 7 of the William Walton Edition), published in 2000 by Oxford University Press.
Constant Lambert: Suite from the incidental music to ‘Salome’
While staying in Paris in 1891, Oscar Wilde wrote his play Salome in French. In June of the following year rehearsals for a production with Sarah Bernhardt in the title role at the Palace Theatre, London, were well advanced when the Lord Chamberlain banned it, not because it was mildly scandalous but because it contained biblical characters. However, in 1894 it was published in an English translation by Wilde’s friend Lord Alfred Douglas, with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley.
Salome was eventually first staged in English at the Gate Theatre club on 27 May 1931 with a distinguished cast that included Margaret Rawlings, Robert Speaight, Flora Robson and John Clements. Choreography was by Ninette de Valois, and this may explain why the task of composing and conducting the incidental music that was required was given to the 25-year-old Constant Lambert, for they had already worked together. Lambert was anyhow already famous as the composer of The Rio Grande (1929).
The musical numbers are short, even scrappy, for this is all that was needed to link the scenes and events of the play. The one exception is, of course, the Dance of the Seven Veils, for which something more extended was required. Fresh from his close association with Façade, and doubtless on a tight budget, Lambert selected an ensemble consisting of just four of the six players used by Walton, that is to say clarinet, trumpet, cello and percussion, the latter with a decidedly exotic tinge. The autograph, and the instrumental parts copied by Lambert himself, languished in the BBC Music Library until 1998 when the composer Giles Easterbrook decided to put the material into performable shape by slightly reordering and connecting it up to form the Suite that here receives its first recorded performance.
The Suite comprises three sections. The first has an arresting prelude, after which there is an extended clarinet recitative which sets the sultry, moonlit atmosphere of the play’s opening. At the end there is a loud interruption, depicting the noise of revelry coming from Herod’s banqueting hall.
The second section consists mainly of sombre, reflective music, including that heard immediately after the young Syrian captain of the guard, infatuated with Salome, kills himself.
The longest section is the third in which a brief introduction gives way to the Dance of the Seven Veils. Inevitably this doffs its hat to the famous parallel section of Richard Strauss’s opera. After the dance’s climax we also hear music that accompanies the executioner’s descent to Jokanaan’s cistern, and the energetic passage following Herod’s final cry to the soldiers, ‘Kill that woman!’.
David Lloyd-Jones © 2001
Façade is a series of poems by Edith Sitwell, best known as part of Façade – An Entertainment in which the poems are recited over an instrumental accompaniment by William Walton. The poems and the music exist in several versions.
Sitwell began to publish some of the Façade poems in 1918, in the literary magazine Wheels. In 1922 many of them were given an orchestral accompaniment by Walton, Sitwell's protégé. The "entertainment" was first performed in public in 1923, and achieved both fame and notoriety for its unconventional form. Walton arranged two suites of his music for full orchestra. When Frederick Ashton made a ballet of Façade in 1931, Sitwell did not wish her poems to be part of it, and the orchestral arrangements were used.
After Sitwell's death, Walton published supplementary versions of Façade for speaker and small ensemble using numbers dropped between the premiere and the publication of the full score in 1951.
Façade exists in several strongly contrasted versions, principally:
- Edith Sitwell's Façade and Other Poems, 1920–1935 – the published versions of those of the poems chosen by the author for her 1950 volume of collected verse.
- The Sitwell-Walton Façade (1951) – the first, and definitive published version of the full score of the entertainment
- Façade Revived (1977) – a set of eight poems and settings not included in the 1951 version, published by Walton to mark his 75th birthday
- Façade II (1979) – a revised version of Façade Revived, with some numbers dropped and others added
- Façade – the complete version, 1922–1928 – a 42-number CD set compiled and performed by Pamela Hunter (1993) restoring all the poems that Walton set, and nine that he did not set.
- Walton's orchestral Façade Suites (1926 and 1938)
Sitwell's published Façade poems
It is sometimes said that the Façade verses are nonsense poetry, in the tradition of Edward Lear. But despite the experiments with sound and rhythm, there is meaning in Sitwell's poems. The literary scholar Jack Lindsay wrote, "The associations are often glancing and rapid in the extreme, but the total effect comes from a highly organized basis of sense." Other writers have detected personal references in the Façade poems. Christopher Palmer lists many references to Sitwell's unhappy childhood, from the kind Mariner Man (her father's valet who entertained her with seafaring stories) to the implacable Mrs Behemoth (her mother).
The Façade poems published by Sitwell in her 1950 collection, Façade and other Poems, 1920–1935 are:
The Sitwell-Walton Façade – An Entertainment
The "entertainment" Façade, in which Sitwell's poems are recited over an instrumental accompaniment by Walton, was first given privately in the Sitwell family's London house on 24 January 1922. The first public performance was given at the Aeolian Hall, London, on 12 June 1923. On both occasions, the author recited the verse and the composer conducted the ensemble.
Walton made changes to the instrumentation for the entertainment between its premiere and the publication of the first printed score nearly thirty years later, but in both 1922–23 and 1951 he scored for six players. The published score specifies flute (doubling piccolo), clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), alto saxophone, trumpet, percussion, and cello. Walton quotes a range of earlier composers in his score, from Rossini (the William Tell overture appears in the Swiss Jodelling Song) to George Grossmith (whose comic song, "See me dance the polka", is present throughout Walton's Polka).
In the Sitwell-Walton Façade there are three poems, "Through Gilded Trellises," "A Man from a far Country" (from Sitwell's The Sleeping Beauty), and "Tarantella" (never formally published by Sitwell), that do not feature in her published edition of Façade. As the performing version frequently recited in public and recorded for the gramophone by Sitwell included the Tarantella, it may be assumed that she did not require the musical version to adhere strictly to the text of the published poems.
The public premiere of the entertainment was a succès de scandale. The performance consisted of Sitwell's verses, which she recited through a megaphone protruding through a decorated screen, while Walton conducted an ensemble of six players in his accompanying music. The press was generally condemnatory. One contemporary headline read: "Drivel That They Paid to Hear".The Daily Express loathed the work, but admitted that it was naggingly memorable.The Manchester Guardian wrote of "relentless cacophony".The Observer condemned the verses and dismissed Walton's music as "harmless". In The Illustrated London News, Edward J. Dent was much more appreciative: "The audience was at first inclined to treat the whole thing as an absurd joke, but there is always a surprisingly serious element in Miss Sitwell's poetry and Mr Walton's music ... which soon induced the audience to listen with breathless attention." In The Sunday Times, Ernest Newman said of Walton, "as a musical joker he is a jewel of the first water". Among the audience were Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward. The last was so outraged by the avant-garde nature of Sitwell's verses and the staging, that he marched out ostentatiously during the performance. The players did not like the work: the clarinettist asked the composer, "Mr Walton, has a clarinet player ever done you an injury?" Nevertheless, the work soon became accepted, and within a decade Walton's music was used for the popular Façade ballet, choreographed by Frederick Ashton.
On 3 March 1930, the BBC made what it described as a "complete" broadcast of the work (18 poems) from the Central Hall, Westminster, produced by Edward Clark. The speakers were Sitwell and Constant Lambert and the conductor was Leslie Heward.
Walton revised the music continually between its first performance and the first publication of the full score in 1951. That definitive version of the Sitwell-Walton Façade consists of:
Walton's later additions
In the 1970s, Walton released some further numbers, under the title Façade Revived, later revising, dropping and adding numbers, as Façade II.
Façade Revived comprises:
- Came the Great Popinjay
- The Last Gallop
- The Octogenarian
- March (Ratatatan)
- The White Owl
- Aubade – Jane, Jane
- Said King Pompey
The work was premiered at the Plaisterers' Hall, London on 25 March 1977, with Richard Baker as reciter and the English Bach Festival Ensemble conducted by Charles Mackerras.
Façade II comprises:
- Came the Great Popinjay
- Aubade – Jane, Jane
- March (Ratatatan)
- Madam Mouse Trots
- The Octogenarian
- Gardener Janus Catches a Naiad
- Water Party
- Said King Pompey
This version was premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival on 19 June 1979, with Sir Peter Pears as reciter and an ensemble conducted by Steuart Bedford.
Complete 1922–1928 version
When the most comprehensive edition of the Sitwell-Walton versions was released in 1993 (on a CD featuring the voice of the Façade specialist Pamela Hunter with the Melologos ensemble) the number of poems had risen to 42. Pamela Hunter recites all these poems on the 1993 CD, including the nine (indicated by an asterisk, below) for which there are no extant musical accompaniments.
After this recording was made in 1993, evidence of additional numbers that were included in the June 1923 performance of Façade came to light. As noted by Stewart Craggs, a copy of the programme for this performance emerged which indicated that 28 poems by Sitwell were set by Walton, including four that were previously unknown, having been lost and forgotten in the intervening years: Clown Argheb's Song, Dark Song, Gone Dry and Serenade. A detailed chronology of the various versions of Façade has been given by Stephen Lloyd, who notes that Serenade may have been a recited poem or a purely instrumental piece.
Walton set three selections from Façade as art-songs for soprano and piano (1932), to be sung with full voice rather than spoken rhythmically. These are:
- Through Gilded Trellises
- Old Sir Faulk
The first of Walton's two Façade suites for full orchestra was published in 1926. Walton conducted the first performance. The suite consists of:
- Swiss Jodelling Song
- Tarantella Sevillana
The second suite was premiered in 1938, with John Barbirolli conducting the New York Philharmonic. It consists of:
- Scotch Rhapsody
- Country Dance
- Noche Espagnole
- Popular Song
- Old Sir Faulk – Foxtrot
The orchestra for both comprises 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba, timpani, 3 percussionists (side drum, cymbals, xylophone, tambourine, bass drum, triangle, glockenspiel, castanets, rattle), and strings. Constant Lambert made an arrangement of both suites for piano duet.
A third suite, arranged by Christopher Palmer, was published in 1992, consisting of:
- Daphne (Song)
- Through Gilded Trellises
- Water Party Waltz
- The Wind's Tambourine
The orchestra comprises: 2 flutes (both doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd doubling cor anglais), 2 clarinets (2nd doubling bass clarinet), alto saxophone, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba, timpani, 4 percussionists (side drum, large ide drum, field drum, bass drum, bass drum with cymbal, drum kit, wood block, castanets, maracas, tambourine, triangle, cymbals, suspended cymbal, tam-tam, glockenspiel, xylophone), piano (doubling celesta), and strings
Main article: Façade (ballet)
Façade was first made into a ballet by Günter Hess for the German Chamber Dance Theatre in 1929. In 1931 Frederick Ashton created another ballet version. Both used the First Façade Suite. For Ashton's version the Scotch Rhapsody and Popular Song were added to the First Suite. Ashton later expanded the ballet to include the Country Dance, Noche Espagnole and the Foxtrot, Old Sir Faulk.
In 1972, to mark Walton's seventieth birthday, Ashton created a new ballet using the score of the "entertainment". It was premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival, with Peter Pears as the reciter.
Main article: Façade discography
Façade – An Entertainment
- Sitwell-Walton version: Edith Sitwell, Peter Pears (reciters), English Opera Group Ensemble, Anthony Collins. Decca LXT2977 (1954)
- Expanded Sitwell-Walton version: Pamela Hunter (reciter), Melologos Ensemble, Silveer van den Broeck. Discover DICD 920125 (1993)
Three Songs from Façade
- Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano, Richard Amner, accompanist, on the album A Portrait of Kiri Te Kanawa. CBS 74116 (1984)
- ^ abcdPalmer, Christopher (1990). Liner notes to Chandos CD CHAN 6689
- ^Sitwell, introduction, p. 18
- ^ abKennedy, p. 304
- ^Walton, passim
- ^See Kennedy, p. 112: Rossini was Walton's favourite composer, and is quoted in later Walton pieces also.
- ^ abcKennedy, p. 33
- ^"Poetry Through a Megaphone", The Daily Express, 13 June 1923, p. 7
- ^"Futuristic Music and Poetry", The Manchester Guardian, 13 June 1923, p. 3
- ^"Music of the Week", The Observer, 17 June 1923, p. 10
- ^"The World of Music", The Illustrated London News, 23 June 1923, p. 1122
- ^Kennedy, p. 31
- ^Hoare, p. 120. Soon afterwards Coward wrote a revue sketch lampooning the Sitwells, which caused a feud between him and them that lasted for decades.
- ^Kennedy, p. 62
- ^Stephen Lloyd, William Walton: Muse of Fire
- ^"Façade Revived", The Times, 19 March 1977, p. 9
- ^Kennedy, p. 305
- ^Craggs, Editor's note on p. 58
- ^Lloyd, Appendix 4
- ^Three Songs published by Oxford University Press - British Library Catalogue: http://explore.bl.uk/BLVU1:LSCOP-ALL:BLL01004728766 retrieved 21/01/2018
- ^ abKennedy, p. 300
- ^Somm CD 0614 (2020)
- ^ abKennedy, p. 291
- Craggs, Stewart R. (editor) (1999). William Walton: Music and Literature. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN .CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Hoare, Philip (1995). Noël Coward. London: Sinclair Stevenson. ISBN .
- Kennedy, Michael (1989). Portrait of Walton. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN .
- Lloyd, Stephen (2001). William Walton: Muse of Fire. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press. ISBN .
- Sitwell, Edith (1950). Façade and Other Poems, 1920–1935. London: Duckworth. OCLC 650091337.
- Walton, William; Edith Sitwell (1951). Façade – An Entertainment – full score. Oxford: Oxford University Press. OCLC 503713.
William walton facade
.Walton: Façade, an entertainment - Alejo Perez - Sir Thomas Allen - Live concert
- Hair grabber drain
- Husqvarna workshop manuals
- Hand water pump tractor supply
- Dipsy lake
- Garmin g1000 training software
- Edd bank card