Dr Alan Walker, whose three-volume biography of Franz Liszt is now the definitive text on last year's bicentenary supremo, has been awarded a top honour by the Government of the Republic of Hungary: the Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit. It was announced, we hear, before the end of Liszt year (and before the new constitution in Hungary, which came into force the other day, dropped the word 'Republic'). Walker, professor emeritus of music at McMaster University, is also the biographer of Hans von Bulow, the conductor and Liszt's pre-Wagner son-in-law, and The Death of Liszt, based on the diary of Liszt's pupil Lina Schmalhausen. He will be bestowed with his award on 17 January at the Hungarian Embassy in Ottawa.
Accolades for books of this excellence are few and far between and goodness knows it is well deserved. But I imagine it won't be long before someone says he ought to consider refusing the award in protest at the current turn of political events in Hungary. This brings home the point that we ought to have more recognition for excellence in musical scholarship from cultural and governmental bodies a bit closer to home.