Understanding the Reception of Walton's Violin Sonata: An Analysis of the First Movement



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This essay explores the tonal and formal structure of the first movement of the Sonata for Violin and Piano by William Walton in the context of its reception history. Reviews of the first performances of the work are discussed in the first section. In order to understand the negative reception of the piece evident in these reviews, an analysis of the first movement is then presented, with the purpose of exploring the tonal and formal aspects of the movement that may have led contemporary critics to conclude that the Sonata was too conservative, or too tonal. The analysis uses current methodologies to interpret form and design, including the Sonata Theory of James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy. Although the movement contains several instances of twentieth-century compositional strategies, its formal and tonal structure are still most closely related to the aesthetics of the Romantic era. This is a feature of the piece with which critics in the mid-twentieth century would naturally not be pleased, considering that after World War II the resurgence of experimentalism and serialism created a new set of aesthetic criteria from which they would judge new works.



Walton, Violin Sonata