William Walton: Crown Imperial

William Dunbar gets the credit for the title to this work.

This man of arts and letters, who was known as the ‘Rhymer of Scotland’, was a friend of Robert Blackadder, the beautifully named Archbishop of Glasgow. It was Dunbar who wrote ‘In Honour of the City’, about London, which contained the lines ‘Empress of townes, exalt in honour, in beawtie beryng the crone imperiall, swete paradise precelling in pleasure, London, thou art the flour of cities all.’ From here, Walton took his idea for the title of this 1937 work. He wrote it for the coronation of Edward VIII, but in the end used it for the coronation of George VI. Said to have been modelled on the Pomp and Circumstance Marches of Elgar, it was performed again at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. At the time, much was made of the absence of Elgar’s music at the 1953 coronation, with Crown Imperial being called the old wine to go alongside his new, Orb and Sceptre.

Recommended Recording

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; AndreĢ Previn (conductor). Telarc: CD80125.