(bWashington, DC, 27 June 1922). American composer and pianist. He studied the piano as a child and later attended the Oberlin College Conservatory (BMus), the Eastman School of Music (DMA), the Curtis Institute of Music and the American Conservatory, Fontainebleau; his teachers included Nadia Boulanger, Robert Casadesus, Clifford Curzon and Rudolf Serkin. An accomplished pianist, he toured extensively both in the USA and abroad. His teaching appointments have included positions at Dillard University, the New School of Social Research, Smith College, the University of Colorado, Boulder and Rutgers University (1969–92). Among his honours are Fulbright, Whitney, Guggenheim, Rockefeller and MacDowell fellowships, an award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1982), a Pulitzer Prize (1996, for Lilacs), and commissions from orchestras such as the Boston SO and the New York PO.
Walker completed his first major composition, the String Quartet no.1, in 1946. His mature style reflects the influence of serialism, but is also characterized by neo-classical forms and textures, engaging melodies, dramatic instrumental colouring, rhythmic complexity and frequent references to black folk idioms. Other influences include the music of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Debussy and Ravel. Several of his works have been recorded.
Vocal: Every Time I Feel the Spirit, 1v, pf, 1975; Hey Nonny-No, 1v, pf, 1975; I got a Letter from Jesus, 1v, pf, 1975; Lament, 1v, pf, 1975; Mary Wore Three Links of Chain, 1v, pf, 1975; Mass, solo vv, chorus, orch, 1976; Lilacs, S/T, orch, 1995
Chbr and solo inst: Str Qt no.1 ‘Lyric’, 1946; Pf Sonata no.1, 1953; Pf Sonata no.2, 1957; Spatials, pf, 1961; Spektra, pf, 1971; Music for Three, pf trio, 1972; Pf Sonata no.3, 1975; Sonata, va, pf, 1989; 2 Pieces, org, 1996
GroveA(E. Southern) [incl. further bibliography]
D.N.Baker, L.M.Belt and H.C.Hudson, eds.: The Black Composer Speaks (Metuchen, NJ, 1978) [incl. interview, work-list]
D.de Lerma: ‘The Choral Works of George Walker’, American Choral Review, xxiii/1 (1981) [special issue, incl. work-list, discography]
D.L.Boe: The Evolutionary Development of Compositional Technique and Style in the Piano Sonatas of George Walker (diss., U. of North Texas, 1995)
M.Clague: ‘George Theophilus Walker, Jr’, International Dictionary of Black Composers (Chicago, forthcoming)
(b Dublin, 1761; d Dublin, 1810). Irish antiquary. He was influenced by contemporary European interest in exotic music, and wrote the first book on Irish music Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards (Dublin, 1786, enlarged 2/1818) when he was 24 and a treasury clerk in Dublin Castle. Romantic in sensibility, prolix in style and largely derived from printed sources in English (Walker knew no Irish), the work nonetheless preserves original information researched by him, particularly in relation to the harper Turlough Carolan, and has served as a model for later writers. It also contains some of the earliest translations into English of Gaelic heroic lays. The appendixes include contributions from fellow antiquaries and an interesting group of 15 melodies which range from bagpipe laments and a plough tune to Gaelic song airs and harp tunes. An extra 28 melodies in the posthumous second edition are all from contemporary printed sources.
(b Vienna, 9 Sept 1916; d Vienna, 30 Jan 1998). Austrian guitarist and composer. She studied the guitar with Josef Zuth, then with Jakob Ortner at the Vienna Music Academy (where she later became professor of guitar) and finally with Heinrich Albert and Llobet Soles. She began her international concert career in 1940. Her many recordings (which include excerpts from Paganini’s guitar quartets, Schubert’s G major Trio and guitar concertos by Torelli and Giuliani) testify to her fine musicianship and astonishing technique. Together with Presti and Anido she is considered one of the 20th-century grandes dames of the guitar, and one of those who were unfortunate in dwelling in the shadow of Segovia. She has been notably active in chamber music. Walker’s love affair with the guitar, described in her autobiography, Ein Leben mit der Gitarre (Frankfurt, 1989), lasted over 70 years; she continued to teach and perform until shortly before her death.
JOHN W. DUARTE
Walker, Robert (Ernest)
(b Northampton, 18 March 1946). English composer. He was a chorister at St Matthew’s, the remarkable Northampton church that commissioned work from Graham Sutherland, Henry Moore and Britten. After studying at Cambridge (1965–8), five years as Director of Music at Grimsby Parish Church (1968–73), and five years working at Novello (1973–8), Walker made the decision to become a full-time composer in 1978. For many years his base was Brinkwells, the Sussex cottage where Elgar wrote his Cello Concerto. He founded the festival in the nearby town of Petworth. From 1982 to 1991 he was a professor of composition at the London College of Music. His style is well described by his own note on his Piano Quintet: ‘Vernacular materials are strongly evident, and there’s no attempt to be stylistically pure. Old forms, shapes and tonalities rub shoulders with more contemporary devices’. In this, Walker was years ahead of fashion, and suffered official neglect as a result, much to the bewilderment of his enthusiastic audiences. De profundis (1990), a choral setting of Oscar Wilde, signified a deep spiritual and professional dissatisfaction. In 1992 Walker left Britain to live in Bali. The return to a self-sufficient artistic society like those of his early career brought about a new serenity, and a style influenced by a hands-on knowledge of the gamelan.
Orch: Variations on a Theme of Elgar, 1982; Sym. no.1, B, orch, 1987; My Dog Has Fleas, 1990; Fragments of Elgar, orch, 1997
Choral: Canticle of the Rose (E. Sitwell), S, Bar, chorus, orch, 1980; De profundis, (O. Wilde), Bar, chorus, orch, 1990; Journey into Light (choral sym. C. Fry), chorus, orch, 1992; Mele livida (Catullus), chorus, 3 perc, pf, str, 1997