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Royal Wedding music has ‘martial swagger’



Sir William Walton’s Crown Imperial has been chosen as the Recessional for the Royal Wedding of HRH Prince William and Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey. A specially abridged version of the piece will be performed at the end of the Service by the London Chamber Orchestra, marking the bride’s entrance into the royal family.

Listen to a clip from Crown Imperial: Record Label – Naxos | Orchestra – English Northern Philharmonia | Conductor – Paul Daniel

Sir William Walton was one of the most important British composers of his generation, and Crown Imperial distils the essence of British regal ceremonial in music.  The orchestral score, published by Oxford University Press, was originally written for performance immediately before the Coronation Service of Prince William’s great-grandparents George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey on 12 May 1937, when a specially configured Coronation Orchestra was conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, performing the work at the entrance of the Dowager Queen Mary. A recording had been made prior to that date, but was not issued until after the Coronation.

The new march became immediately popular, and OUP issued arrangements for piano, organ, small orchestra with piano, and military band, as well as various versions of the original full orchestration. Crown Imperial is now one of the most popular and best-loved classical music works by a twentieth-century British composer, and is regularly performed and recorded worldwide.

The performance direction at the head of the score is Allegro real, and after the title comes a quotation from William Dunbar: ‘In beawtie beryng the crone imperiall’. Both immediately confirm the work’s purpose as an arresting occasional piece for a great and royal ceremonial event.

Martial swagger, a memorable central melody, and the striking use of the organ all contribute to Crown Imperial’s grand effect.  The abridgement of the score used at the Royal Wedding makes some changes to the original orchestration and memorably introduces six fanfare trumpets and snare drum in the closing bars.

The orchestral material for this abridgement of Crown Imperial will be available on hire from OUP during the summer of 2011.

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