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Lady Walton, widow of Sir William Walton, passed away peacefully at her home on the island of Ischia on Sunday 21 March, at the age of 83. Classic FM presenter David Mellor has fond memories of her and her work.
Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at 22 Susana Walton took a job at the British Council there. When William Walton travelled to Argentina to participate in a conference, Susana organised a press conference to introduce him to the press. It was love at first sight, and the couple were engaged two weeks later.
David Mellor comments on Lady Walton's death: "Susana Walton was a great friend and her passing is a sad loss to music. She inspired her husband to produce some of his greatest works, nursed him through a painful and difficult old age, and then spent three decades ensuring his legacy through her indefatigable work for the Walton Foundation.
But above all I remember the glorious gardens they created at La Mortella on Ischia. Some of the world's most interesting and beautiful plants were developed there as a memorial to a great and unexpected love affair, that provided the most beautiful of settings for the continued celebration of the music of one of England's most interesting and most international of composers."
The Waltons built their own home at Forio d’Ischia and designed the garden to which Lady Walton dedicated herself for over 50 years. Following Sir William’s death in 1983, Lady Walton transformed the property into a living monument to her husband. The Fondazione William Walton e La Mortella promotes musical education and performance by young artists, and also protects the garden, with the purpose of promoting a love of nature and gardening. It now hosts visits to the garden, public concerts, courses for young musicians, music festivals and masterclasses.
Despite not being able to read music, Lady Walton promoted her husband's compositions tirelessly and gave brilliant performances of the speaking role in his work Façade. She also wrote two books: a biography of Sir William and a history of her garden.
Wolfgang Wagner, grandson of Richard Wagner, also died on Sunday 21 March, at the age of 90. He was Director of the Bayreuth Festival, dedicated to Wagner's operas, from 1951 to 2008, and also established a foundation to maintain Wagner's library.
During his time as Director of Bayreuth, Wolfgang Wagner invited many experimental directors to put on productions and engaged Daniel Barenboim and James Levine as regular conductors.
In later years Wolfgang's tenure as Director was somewhat overshadowed by power struggles within the Wagner family, but he certainly played his part in maintaining a high profile for Wagner's music and the Festival. In 1974, he engaged the Frenchmen Patrice Chereau and Pierre Boulez for a production of Tannhasuer, provoking uproar among fellow Germans.