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Spitfire Prelude

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William Walton

William Walton (arr. Bashford)

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General Info

Year: 1942 / 1968
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
Cost: Score and Parts - Out of print


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Spitfire Prelude and Fugue is an orchestral composition by William Walton, arranged and extracted in 1942 from music he had written for the motion picture The First of the Few earlier that year.

There were four films released in 1942 with music by William Walton. These helped establish him as a major figure in English music and British film music. The popularity of the music in The First of the Few was such that a recording was made in the same year of the Spitfire Prelude and Fugue with the composer conducting.

Sid Cole, supervising editor of The First of the Few, noted that "when the film was finally edited, William Walton was doing the music. Leslie Howard, for some reason, could not be at the running of the film for Walton so he told me very elaborately what he wanted from the music. So after we had the viewing I went up to Walton and repeated what Leslie had said as accurately as I could. Walton listened very carefully and said Oh I see, Leslie wants a lot of notes, and he went away and wrote The Spitfire Fugue".

A review of The First of the Few in the New Statesman and Nation on 29 August 1942 mentioned the score: "Walton's music deserves special recommendation. His fugal movement for the assembly of parts of the Spitfire adds immensely to the most moving sequence in the film".

The prelude, called by Stephen Lloyd "one of Walton’s finest marches", is the music heard over the opening credit titles in the movie. The fugue is used to describe the making of the Spitfire; a central lyrical violin solo depicts the exhaustion and dying by illness of the aircraft’s designer R. J. Mitchell, and then the patriotic march returns joined with the fugue to mark the completion of the fighter aircraft.

In 1947, John Huntley wrote of the composition, "The Prelude is a patriotic, resounding piece of good orchestration; simple in construction, it makes ideal film music". Walton was also commissioned in June 1968 for the score of a movie with a similar theme, Battle of Britain.

- Program Notes from Wikipedia

Commercial Discography

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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  • Los Angeles Symphonic Winds (Stephen Piazza, conductor) - 15 March 2015

Works for Winds by This Composer