Peter Warlock was a pseudonym of Philip Arnold Heseltine (30 October 1894 - 17 December 1930), an Anglo-Welsh composer and music critic. Although he used his own name when writing as a music critic, he composed under the pseudonym "Peter Warlock" and is now better known by this name. Warlock's compositions are nearly all songs and most of these are for solo voice and piano. There is a smaller, but still significant, number of pieces for voices ? choral songs ? although a few of these are arrangements of his solo songs.
He wrote little instrumental music, although the Capriol Suite (October 1926) is probably his best-known work and exists in versions for string orchestra, full orchestra and piano duet. (There are arrangements for other combinations but these are not by Warlock himself.) His only composition for solo piano is a set of arrangements of Celtic melodies, the 'Folk-song preludes'. He had a deep affinity for poetry, especially that of Yeats and his friends Robert Nichols and Bruce Blunt (1899-1957), and he always chose texts of high artistic value, many of them from the Middle Ages, as basis for his songs.
Many people consider his greatest work to be the song-cycle 'The Curlew', for tenor and chamber ensemble, in which he sets four linked poems by Yeats. It is certainly his most substantial piece and was written over a long period of time ? some seven years ? taking in many stylistic changes along the way from the neo-Delianism of 'The lover mourns for the loss of love' to sections within the longest song, 'The withering of the boughs' that suggest Bartók and Schoenberg as influences before achieving a more idiosyncratic, modal, and genuinely Warlockian vocabulary.
Warlock is also known for his many carols, such as Adam Lay Ybounden, Tyrley Tyrlow, and Bethlehem Down, the last a setting of words by Blunt.
Warlock's musical tastes were wide, from Renaissance music to Bartók. In his own works, we hear a development from emulation of the Victorian and Edwardian drawing-room style to a more contrapuntal, strongly personal idiom characterised by the relationship between modal lines and a distinctive palette of chords. He was unusual amongst composers of his generation in being largely unaffected by the folksong movement, either as an arranger (the above-named piano pieces being an exception) or a composer. He only wrote one folksong-oriented work, the cycle 'Lilligay' and it might be more appropriate to look to Bartók as an influence here rather than any paradigms from his own country.
Apart from original works, Warlock edited and transcribed many lute songs by Elizabethan and Jacobean composers in addition to music by Purcell and other Baroque composers. He also did much to promote the music of Delius, especially by organizing the successful Delius Festival of 1929 with Thomas Beecham. He wrote the first biography of Delius as well as, with Cecil Gray, a book about Carlo Gesualdo. His book on 'The English ayre' was a groundbreaking study but he also wrote about contemporary music including an article that was probably the first substantial study in English of the music of Arnold Schoenberg. In 1925, Warlock rediscovered the music of sixteenth century composer Thomas Whythorne, releasing a book of his compositions and poetry.
Warlock also edited, under the pseudonym 'Rab Noolas' (to be read backwards), an anthology on drinking 'for the delectation of serious topers', entitled 'Merry-Go-Down' (Mandrake Press, c. 1930).
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