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A Rare Collection

The collected 78rpm recordings of Peter Warlock -
heard by

'... some interesting and revealing performances.'

Peter Warlock - Collected 78rpm recordings. © 2009 Dvine Art Ltd

Another recording in Divine Art's 'Historic Sound' series, this 2-CD set is an extensive remastering from the discs in the John Bishop collection, original recordings made between 1925 and 1951. Although many inevitably show their age, they all provide a remarkable retrospective of Warlock's work, especially his songs, and of those devoted to its performance.

Peter Warlock (born Philip Arnold Heseltine in 1894) was responsible for editing a large quantity of forgotten English Elizabethan and Jacobean music under the name he was born to and, although he had no formal musical training, became one of the finest and most prolific of English vocal composers as 'Peter Warlock'. His tragic early death in 1930 puts many of the recordings in this collection beyond his direct influence, and it is tempting to compare recordings of his most renowned piece, the Capriol Suite, made on these 78rpm recordings over the years that followed.

As examples of the changing approaches offered by this collection, Anthony Bernard's 1931 performance of the final dance, Mattachins,

Listen -- Warlock: Mattachins (Capriol Suite)
(CDA track 1, 7:16-8:17) © 2009 Divine Art Ltd

seems to contrast interestingly with Constant Lambert's 1937 reading.

Listen -- Warlock: Mattachins (Capriol Suite)
(CDA track 5, 7:32-8:31) © 2009 Divine Art Ltd

A year before Lambert, Josef Szigeti recorded his own arrangement.

Listen -- Warlock: Mattachins (Capriol Suite)
(CDA track 3, 4:17-5:14) © 2009 Divine Art Ltd

There are two performances of the Serenade for Strings, one lovingly by Barbirolli in 1928, and another by Lambert in that same 1937 session as his Capriol. But the highlight of the first disc, otherwise devoted to instrumental pieces, must be the recording made in 1950 of The Curlew by René Soames, Leon Goossens and the Aeolian Quartet -- a performance showing great affection for both the composer and the poet W B Yeats, who was apparently no lover of music. Warlock's biographer Cecil Gray found the work's sadness 'unbearable, even years after the composer's death'.

Listen -- Warlock: The Curlew
(CDA track 8, 12:40-14:22) © 2009 Divine Art Ltd

The second disc is devoted entirely to the songs, and in spite of age there are some interesting and revealing performances. The three of Corpus Christi are separated by twenty three years (during which time there was much technical improvement). In 1936 a young Peter Pears appeared with Ann Wood and the BBC Chorus,

Listen -- Warlock: Corpus Christi
(CDB track 16, 0:02-0:51) © 2009 Divine Art Ltd

and the 1950 recording had René Soames again.

Listen -- Warlock: Corpus Christi
(CDB track 32, 0:00-0:55) © 2009 Divine Art Ltd

The earliest recording of the piece, made in 1927, is far more swift, though perhaps at that time Warlock was on hand to advise.

Listen -- Warlock: Corpus Christi
(CDB track 7, 0:00-0:37) © 2009 Divine Art Ltd

The songs occupy thirty five tracks on the second disc and make fascinating listening. With only two samples, the extent can be assessed: Milkmaids sung by Roy Henderson

Listen -- Warlock: Milkmaids
(CDB track 19, 0:00-0:42) © 2009 Divine Art Ltd

and Dennis Noble singing a later song, The Fox, accompanied by Gerald Moore.

Listen -- Warlock: The Fox
(CDB track 34, 0:00-0:45) © 2009 Divine Art Ltd

Other performers in this treasury include tenor Parry Jones, contralto Nancy Evans, the baritones John Goss and John Armstrong and the bass Peter Dawson in one song, Captain Stratton's Fancy. Any enthusiast for historic recordings and fine artists of the past, as well as for Warlock, can value this rare collection.

Copyright © 24 October 2009 Patric Standford,
Wakefield UK









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