Plenary Session

Alan Walker
Sunday, March 17
9:15–10:45 a.m.

Alan Walker is professor emeritus of music at McMaster University in Canada. Before settling in North America, he was on the staff of the music division of the British Broadcasting Corporation in London. He has broadcast for the BBC, CBC, and for CJRT-FM (Toronto), and he gives regular public lectures on the music of the romantic era, a period in which he specializes. His 13 published books include A Study in Musical Analysis, An Anatomy of Musical Criticism, and symposia on Chopin, Schumann, and Liszt.

Walker’s three-volume, prize-winning biography of Franz Liszt was a project that took him 25 years to complete, and for which the president of Hungary bestowed on him the medal Pro Cultura Hungarica. The biography also received the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize, presented by HRH The Duke of Kent in London.

Time magazine hailed the biography as "a textured portrait of Liszt and his times without rival." The Wall Street Journal called it "the definitive work to which all subsequent Liszt biographies will aspire." The Washington Post selected it as a "Book of the Year."

The Liszt biography was followed by a detailed inquiry into Liszt’s demise called The Death of Franz Liszt (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY). It describes the last 10 days of the composer's life in Bayreuth. Based on eye-witness accounts, and the unpublished diary of a pupil Lina Schmalhausen, it tells a harrowing story of Liszt’s final illness, medical malpractice, family neglect and callous disregard for Liszt's final wishes.

Walker’s book Reflections on Liszt (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 2005) contains essays on Liszt’s life and work, including his lifelong connection to the music of Beethoven, the Beethoven symphony-transcriptions, the Schubert song-transcriptions, the Sonata in B Minor, and Liszt as an author. For the past 10 years, Walker has been working on a large-scale biography of Fryderyk Chopin, which was published in October 2018.

For his services to music, McMaster University bestowed on Walker the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa. He was also made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. During the Liszt bi-centennial anniversary year (2011), the Government of Hungary inducted him into one of its highest honors: the Knight’s Cross of Merit of the Republic of Hungary.