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27 August 2019

* EXTRA * EXTRA * In memoriam S. Craggs †

I learned this morning of the death a few weeks ago of a dear friend and (Im proud to say) colleague, Stewart R. Craggs (19432019).  In my very first blog post I wrote about the experience of studying in a library room devoted to the research tools for works of composers, the M3s and ML134s.  Stewart produced an astonishing number of ML134s over the years for a wide range of composers, mainly British.  His first work was on William Walton, and over the decades he revised his works catalogue twice.  It was a great honor when he asked me to write the introduction for the third edition, which appeared as the final volume of the William Walton Edition.  Below, a jolly bunch of Waltonians celebrate the completion of the project at an OUP reception on 27 March 2014:

L-R:  JBK, Stewart Craggs, Lionel Friend, Alessandra Vinciguerra, David Lloyd-Jones, Michael Burden

My introduction for the catalogue was a bit of a gushing tribute.  OUP truncated it a bit, so I thought I would post the unedited version here in tribute to Stewart.  It says what I wanted it to the first time, although it is wholly inadequate to honor him as he deserved.  I send my condolences to his family.

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The cover of the paperback issue
James Brooks Kuykendall

The individual that takes this volume down from the shelf is very likely in search of answers; indeed, facts it contains in abundance.  But the labour that produced it was one dedicated to hunting out facts even when they seemed contradictory, or when the pattern they produced seemed at odds with received wisdom.  The result is, to be sure, a nuanced account of the documents surrounding William Walton—documents which amass together to reveal much of the life and works of the man.  Motivating all of the archival research, though, is an abiding passion for the music itself.  Stewart Craggs can recall a fascination beginning already in his childhood beside the radio, ‘when the strength and majesty of the first symphony created an impression that has never faded’.

Dr. Craggs is not Dr. Johnson’s ‘harmless drudge,’ who remains ‘doomed to only to remove the rubbish and clear obstructions from the paths of Learning and Genius’.  Rather, Craggs’s work  has been devoted to discovering a complex Walton lying behind a number of façades—and the real figure seems to attract more attention from performers and scholars year by year, even as the nuances are revealed.  Craggs’s enthusiasm for even the minutiae of his subject is couched in a very congenial style, yielding a reference work of a sort the late Christopher Palmer classified even as ‘reading-in-bed material’.  Indeed, much else of what Palmer wrote in his introduction for the second edition of this catalogue (1990) still holds.  The compiler’s ‘untiring industry’ has not abated, and the rich harvest of information continues, so much so that it seems a pity that it has to be arrested so that it can be manifested on the pages of this volume.  Naturally the work goes on, and this third edition represents only a certain state of his Walton research, now in its fifth decade.

Craggs’s formal research on Walton began in the late 1960s when he selected the composer as the topic for a thesis to be submitted in application to become a Fellow of the Library Association (now the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals).  At first Craggs conceived of the work to be mainly a bibliography and discography; as his spadework uncovered a body of material that had been completely forgotten (for example, the incidental music for The Son of Heaven, The Boy David, and Macbeth), his supervisor, Alec Hyatt-King, advocated that the thesis include a work catalogue as well.  The thesis was successfully submitted in 1973.  Alan Frank, head of music at Oxford University Press and thus a key contact during the gestation of the thesis, proposed publishing Craggs’s research as a complete thematic catalogue.  This appeared in 1977, and it was perhaps the most tangible and significant of the many seventy-fifth birthday tributes to the composer.  The extended prefatory ‘critical appreciation’ by Michael Kennedy formed the nucleus of the authorised biography that was to appear only in 1989.  Kennedy had deferred writing his full-length biography until after the death of his subject; the publication of the catalogue before the composer’s death made a second edition a foregone conclusion, even with the decline in Walton’s compositional output in his last years. 

Hardly had the 1977 catalogue emerged from the presses before Craggs embarked on further Walton research for a Master of Arts at the University of Strathclyde.  His three-volume thesis “William Turner Walton:  his life and music” was completed in 1978 under the supervision of the eminent bibliographer William R. Aitken.  In the preface, Craggs remarks:
There has been so far no entirely satisfactory and detailed biographical account of Walton.   Those that have been published all seem to have been based upon factual information communicated by Walton to H J Foss in 1932, to which nothing much has been added over the years.  In my research I have tried to discover the true facts rather than those purported to be true.  To do this, I have approached many individuals involved in Walton’s career.  Thus I have been able to begin correcting prior misapprehensions and have filled in much missing detail of considerable musicological interest....
Walton himself was only partially helpful, in that he tended to favour the briefest possible reply to any query.  He was wary of the painstaking efforts of ‘Scraggs’ to verify every detail, to supplant a simple explanation with a more complicated truth, and to exhume what lay buried under a carefully constructed persona.  The ‘Grand Old Man’ image had been codified by the press and the BBC in the 1972 and 1977 birthday celebrations, and it was one Walton was happy to adopt as the story he wished to be told.  Although Walton himself had maintained an arm’s-length relationship with his chronicler, his widow recognised that Craggs knew the music and the documents more intimately than anyone had known the man himself.  At her suggestion, Craggs was given the task of examining the voluminous archive of Walton correspondence held by Oxford University Press; this yielded substantial new factual data for many works, and the more complete documentation is clearly evident in the 1990 second edition of the catalogue.  Craggs himself purchased a collection of letters from the young composer to Siegfried Sassoon, subsequently acquired by Walton and now a part of his archive at Ischia.  Moreover, if the composer himself was sometimes obfuscatory, many of Walton’s contemporaries with whom Craggs corresponded were more forthcoming.  Craggs’s archive of these letters from the Great and the Good is impressive to behold, and the 1990 edition is enriched by these recollections.  (Palmer’s ‘reading-in-bed material’ description highlights the remarkable amount of supplementary ‘titbits’ that fill-out the chronology and the source descriptions.)  The second edition was awarded the Library Association’s 1990 McColvin Medal for the outstanding reference book of that year.

As before, the publication of the catalogue left Craggs’s energies for Walton research unabated, producing two further books even as he simultaneously produced substantial reference works encompassing a very wide scope of related figures:  William Alwyn (1985), Malcolm Arnold (1998), Richard Rodney Bennett (1990), Lennox Berkeley (2000), Arthur Bliss (1988 (based on his PhD dissertation), 1996, 2002), Benjamin Britten (2002), Alan Bush (2007), Peter Maxwell Davies (2002), Edward Elgar (1995), Alun Hoddinott (1993), John Ireland (1993, 2007), William Mathias (1995), and John McCabe (1991), as well as a dictionary of film composers (1998)—all the while also fulfilling his professional responsibilities as a librarian and a magistrate.  In 1993 Craggs was appointed Professor of Music Bibliography at the University of Sunderland, producing in the same year William Walton:  A Source Book, which offered comprehensive documentation of the extant manuscripts, first editions, letters, and recordings.  In 1999 he edited a collection of essays, William Walton:  Music and Literature, that has acted as a catalyst for much later work.

Internal OUP documents indicate that already in soon after Walton’s death there was some thought given to reissuing all of their Walton publications in a uniformly bound edition.  This project was not ultimately realised; perhaps this was just as well, as there were no plans for a thorough critical examination of each work.  It would have been little more than a vanity edition, in tribute to a figure who had been a house composer since the very first days of the OUP Music Department.  When the subject was revisited in 1994, it was decided that a credible new edition would require more than photographic reproductions of the already published text.  A critical edition of Walton’s works would be an expensive undertaking, and required careful planning.  With the appointment of David Lloyd-Jones as General Editor of the William Walton Edition in 1995, Craggs was appointed Consultant, and he has given considerable assistance to several volume editors, as well as contributing a Preface that eloquently navigates the complex web of material witnesses to the Facade Entertainments (Volume 7).  Only 23 volumes were envisaged for the new edition.  This final volume—a third edition of the Craggs catalogue—was  subsequently recognized as essential and serves as a fitting culmination to the entire project, drawing as it does upon the considerable research efforts that went into the William Walton Edition in nearly two decades of fruition.

It may seem remarkable that barely three decades since his death Walton would have received already a third edition of a work catalogue when many of his contemporaries await a catalogue at all.  Many factors bear upon this.  With just 106 catalogue numbers, Walton’s oeuvre is not unmanageable (particularly because of his habit of destroying or otherwise obliterating unsatisfactory efforts), even if each work brings its own specific set of bibliographical and philological problems—for example, the Fantasia Concertante (C14), which seems all but apocryphal, and yet receives Craggs’s full attention, together with the survey of works Walton considered but did not begin.  With the sole exception of the piano quartet, all of the published works were issued by a single publisher, making the production files of the OUP Music Department a particularly vital primary source.  More significantly, the bulk of Walton’s Nachlass is generally well-preserved and available to be consulted in a handful of locations (with the autographs principally in the Koch collection at Yale’s Beinecke Library, large portions of the correspondence in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, the files of the BBC and the substantial collection of the Walton Museum in Ischia, in addition to the OUP holdings).  This notwithstanding, the task facing anyone attempting to verify every possible detail is herculean; at least Craggs got an early start.  The reader of this catalogue can be assured that ‘Holograph:  whereabouts unknown’ is not an idle phrase of an armchair bibliographer, but is a testimony of decades of indomitable search.   Thus the disappearance of the autograph full score of Belshazzar’s Feast is astounding.  That such a vital source for a work recognised so early to be a twentieth-century masterpiece could disappear without trace beggars belief, especially when at least a portion of the manuscript was extant and loaned out to exhibitions in the 1950s.  But there is hope.  “Tribute to the Red Cross” (1944), a manuscript collection containing contributions of men and women distinguished in politics, literature, art, and music (including Walton, Bliss, Vaughan Williams, Bax, Ireland, Lambert, and Moeran) was auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1944, and lost from sight for almost seven decades, only to be tracked down by Craggs only as this volume was being finished.  The foundation he has laid will enable others to continue these pursuits in coming years. 

Stewart Craggs has devoted a lifetime of tireless labour to clarifying the facts of the music of Walton and his contemporaries.  Walton himself warily suggested that Craggs’s ‘sleuth capabilities’ might be turned in some other direction, but appreciation for his work is evident time and again in the front matter of very many publications bearing on this material.  Michael Kennedy’s remark in 1993 that ‘present and future music historians will have every reason to bless the name of Stewart Craggs’ is a prophecy already fulfilled.  Moreover, his caginess notwithstanding, Walton’s own appreciation is manifest in an avuncular gesture:  one of his last compositions was the Duettino for Oboe and Violin (C101) for Barnaby and Cordelia Craggs, published here for the first time.  Craggs himself views all of his efforts as a lifetime labour of love:  ‘to study Walton’s music has been a rewarding experience; to submit to its impact, unforgettable’.