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Peter WARLOCK Songs

The Curlew; Lillygay; Peter Warlock's Fancy; Peterisms; My ghostly fader; Bright is the ring of words; Saudades; The cloths of Heaven; The frostbound wood; Bethlehem Down; Sweet and twenty; And wilt thou leave me thus?; Mr. Belloc's Fancy; The bachelor; Away to Twiver; Captain Stratton's Fancy

Adrian Thompson (tenor), Christopher Maltman (baritone), John Constable (piano)
The Duke Quartet, Philippa Davies (flute), Christine Pendrill (cor anglais)

NAXOS 8.557115

This reissue of songs by Philip Heseltine (1894-1930, a.k.a. Peter Warlock) comes from the Collins English Song Series.

On revisiting The Curlew (1922) with string quartet and woodwind after half a century I found it more beautiful than bleak, not matching my memory of the black desolation conveyed in the first recording on 78s (its emotional impact then was as strong as one's feelings for the bereft sea bird of Delius's Sea Drift in Beecham's early recording).

There is a better variety in this selection, mostly from the 1920s, than I had expected, even if I have a small resistance to the hearty drinking songs. The Distracted Maid does not match the intensity of some 17 C. "mad songs", but there are many touching settings and, like Britten later, Warlock had a good eye for poems to set. Two by Bruce Blunt about Mary & Jesus are affecting and Wyatt's And wilt thou leave me thus is a persuasive protest against desertion.

I preferred Christopher Maltman's baritone to Adrian Thompson (tenor), but that is a matter of taste. This is a well recorded and presented anthology and John Constable's imperturbable mastery of Warlock's tricky accompaniments are welcome to those of us who more often see him coping with the latest contemporary challenges in London Sinfonietta concerts.

© Peter Grahame Woolf