Belshazzar's Feast (Walton)

painting of a biblical banquet interrupted by divine intervention
Rembrandt's depiction of "Belshazzar's Feast" is used on the cover of the vocal score and of many recordings of the cantata

Belshazzar's Feast is a cantata by the English composer William Walton.[1] It was first performed at the Leeds Festival on 8 October 1931, with the baritone Dennis Noble, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Leeds Festival Chorus, conducted by Malcolm Sargent.[2] The work has remained one of Walton's most celebrated compositions.[3] Osbert Sitwell selected the text from the Bible, primarily the Book of Daniel, and Psalm 137. The work is dedicated to Walton's friend and benefactor Lord Berners.[4]


In the story of Belshazzar's Feast, the Jews are in exile in Babylon. After a feast at which Belshazzar, the Babylonian king, commits sacrilege by using the Jews' sacred vessels to praise the heathen gods, he is miraculously killed, the kingdom falls, and the Jews regain their freedom.