Peter Warlock

From Academic Kids

Peter Warlock was a pseudonym of Philip Arnold Heseltine (October 30, 1894 - December 17, 1930), an English composer and music critic. He used the pseudonym Peter Warlock as a composer and his real name as a critic, but is now better known as Peter Warlock.

Life

Philip Heseltine was born in London and lost his father as a child. His education was mainly classical, including studies in Eton College, in Christ Church, Oxford, and in University College London. In music, he was mostly self-taught, studying composition on his own from the works of composers he admired, notably Frederick Delius, Roger Quilter and Bernard van Dieren. He was also strongly influenced by Elizabethan music and poetry as well as by Celtic culture (he studied the Cornish, Welsh, Irish, Manx and Breton languages).

Heseltine wrote his earliest mature compositions, published to critical acclaim under the newly adopted pseudonym Peter Warlock, in Ireland during 1917-1918. They were followed by a period of concentration on musical journalism; for a while, he was the editor of the musical magazine The Sackbut. His most prolific period as a composer was in the early 1920s when he retired in his mother's house in Cefn-Bryntalch, Wales, writing there some of his finest songs, such as the song-cycle The Curlew to poems by W. B. Yeats.

Between 1925 and 1929, following a quiet period, Warlock and his colleague E. J. Moeran led a wild, boozy life in Eynsford, Kent, having to deal with the local police more than once. For Warlock, however, this was one of the most fruitful periods of his life, but by the end of the 1920s his creativity was on the decrease and he had to support himself on music criticism again. He was suffering from severe depression, but whether his death from gas poisoning at the age of 36 was a suicide or an accident, is not known.

Works

Warlock's compositions are nearly all songs, though the suite "Capriol" for chamber orchestra is among his best-known works. 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.

Warlock's musical tastes were wide, from Medieval 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.

Apart from original works, Warlock edited and transcribed around 300 folk songs and a similar number of lute songs by Elizabethan and Jacobean 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. Warlock himself appears, thinly disguised, as a character in D. H. Lawrence's novel Women in Love.

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