This is a vital set for Warlock enthusiasts. A number of these
recordings were made before Warlock’s death in 1930 not
that this in itself is any guarantee of authenticity of approach
but there is fascination in hearing these contemporaneous accounts..
Anthony Bernard's Capriol is not taken at a dawdle. The
sound is a little boxy but vivid and even brusque in a way that,
inthe finale, recalled Bartók. The Delian Serenade
for Strings is taken by Barbirolli at a dry-eyed speed but
one can still feel the minute attention to dynamic and pace
by the instant more so than with Bernard in Capriol.
Unsentimental stuff. It’s unnerving to hear Capriol
in a version played by Szigeti as transcribed by him for
violin and piano. The pianist is none other than Nikita Magaloff.
A shame that each movement is not separately tracked. It is
played with greatly accentuated emphasis and fierce tone. Lambert's
1937 Serenade also sounds fast by latter-day standards.
It’s 40 seconds shorter than Barbirolli in 1928. The sound
is more agreeable in this case with heightened fullness of tone.
Lambert continued that same year with a Capriol also
with his own string orchestra. Though overall only 14 seconds
longer than Bernard it sounds less hectoring - more modern.
The tone is very nicely rendered and it's quite pleasing to
the ear overall. The 1935 recording of Warlock's version of
the Purcell fantaisie no. 3 is sedate and stately in a version
played Casals-style by the Pasquier Trio. Ten years later the
Griller take Warlock's arrangement of Purcell Four Part fantasia.
This is seriously done again with stately concentration and
gravity of expression.
Sounding best of all and for me Warlock's masterwork is The
Curlew here heard in a 1950 version by René Soames,
Leon Goossens and the Aeolian String Quartet. The influence
of that cor anglais can be heard to this day - as late as 1979
in Howard Blake's score from the film of Erskine Childers' The
Riddle of the Sands. Soames is passionate but his accent
may seem rather outdated and twee to some. The Curlew
is a melancholy score and there is quintessential beauty in
its melancholy. The curlew-call intertwines with the words and
with wild-eyed witchery. There is romance here but Warlock will
let in not even a shred of sentimentality. The work makes an
indelible impact yet for me the versions by James Griffett (Pearl
and ASV) and Ian Partridge (EMI Classics - just reissued again)
take some beating. Soames is good though, for example in his
way with the words: “The roads are unending and there
is no place to my mind”. He sings the words “Because
I have told them my dreams” where Partridge chillingly
speaks them in hushed tones. After all the witchery hearts melt
in the face of the images conjured by the words “I know
a sleepy country where swans fly round coupled with golden chains
… and sing as they fly / A king and a queen are wandering
there and the sound has made them so happy and hopeless, so
deaf and so blind with wisdom they wander till all the years
have gone by.”
The second disc is full to the brim with 35 songs. The Dawson
Captain Stratton's Fancy is sung with boozy character.
It’s full of life and expression and still works. John
Goss, a good friend and close associate of the composer lays
into Oh Good Ale with the Cathedral Male Voice Quartet.
Flow not fast ye fountains sounds rather stilted though
Diana Pulton plucks away at the lute with an emphatic will as
she also does in There is a garden, O Eyes and
Come My Celia. Goss does little in the way of expression
but he is very clear in his enunciation. These January 1928
recordings are a valuable sliver of history. The English Singers
are recorded in the Corpus Christi Carol the year before
the Goss recordings - it’s quiet and fast. The recording
was on the, for me, little heard of Royston label. The baritone
John Armstrong sings Sleep and Chopcherry with
the International String Quartet for a National Gramophone Society
disc in 1931. A quick pace is in evidence again; the results
seem unfeeling. The Fox is sung eerily and ruthlessly
by Parry Jones - very impressive and even slightly gothic-macabre
- in 1934. He is more honeyed in Come Sleep and sunset
warm though warbly-lachrymose in Take O take Those Lips away.
Sweet and Kind is better. As ever I saw again
finds Parry Jones in good stalwart form yet sensitive to the
word-setting as he also is in The Passionate Shepherd.
Thankfully Leslie Woodgate's BBC Chorus, recorded in 1936, are
so much better than the English Singers in the Corpus Christi
Carol. Peter Pears even sounds good, in springheel form,
well before a sollipsistically beloved bray had become part
of his stock-in-vocal-trade.
From the same disc we hear a surgingly lusty Cornish Christmas
Carol. It's to the tune we now know as Nowell! Nowell!.
In 1941 Cecil Cope recorded the six nursery jingles for the
BBC Transcription Service. This is silently surfaced and sounds
wonderfully alive and clean for these little charming trivialities.
In 1941 and 1943 Roy Henderson recorded some eight Warlock songs
- all here. Milkmaids and Captain Stratton's Fancy
Henderson is accompanied by Eric “Griffen” in
1943 but otherwise it’s Gerald Moore. Surely the accompanist
for the first two is in fact Eric Gritton? Henderson's tight
tone ensures clarity of enunciation - very sharp uptight diction.
He relaxes somewhat for Passing By but he seems to miss
the tenderness. There’s too much of the Captain Stratton
about this. I had fears for My Own Country - one of my
favourite songs among the Warlock solo items. In fact he does
this very well indeed, assisted by the wonderfully sensitive
Gerald Moore. Fair and True comes off less well, despite
the strange tonal world of the initial piano notes. Piggesnie
skips along in sprightly fashion and Henderson does here
take the hint. The three songs by Nancy Evans are again taken
with Moore but there is a dearth of feeling in Sweet and
Twenty. Consider is not a song I recall hearing before.
In fact it works well in its swirling aspirational scena style.
Evans tackles Come Sleep very well. Rest sweet nymphs
transports us to Truro County Girls school choir in 1946
where the pupils are conducted by the attentive Miss Sanders.
It's very lovely and is lovingly done. The First Mercy is
hauntingly sung by boy soprano Master Billy Neeley. Again a
wonderful Corpus Christi, this time taking 4.45 against
the 1936 BBC Chorus version and The English Singers 3.03
in 1927. This 1950 HMV version is conducted by Woodgate with
The Festival Singers and with Flora Nielsen. It’s a master-work.
Wonderful stuff but sounds even older than its 1950 vintage
and making that Cecil Cope BBC transcription job all the more
miraculous in its superbly preserved clarity. Dennis Noble and
Moore, again totally reliable yet full of blazing imagination,
tackle the mystical Frostbound Wood in 1951. They are
accorded fine sound. The Fox is as nicely macabre - even
melodramatic - as Parry Jones in 1934. In fact Parry Jones does
it with less grease-paint. Oscar Natzke has been celebrated
in various sets over the years and here he does a rather populist
Captain Stratton's Fancy with Graingerian ‘chuckles’
in the orchestra and the piano solo. Dawson is non pareil
but Natzke is pretty good and he does have the benefit of
All the transfers are by Andrew Rose of Pristine Audio. The originals
were painstakingly collected by John Bishop - he of Thames Publishing
fame. Bishop did so much for the music of Warlock and many other
British composers. By the way, Boydells - a successor to Thames
- are offering all four volumes of the Warlock letters at a very
attractive price - just contact them for further details.
An item 'missing' from this collection is a recording of The
Curlew by John Armstrong with the International String Quartet.
Its inclusion would have necessitated a third CD - the recording
is available as a download via Pristine Audio. I could happily
have done without the two Purcell arrangements if we had conveniently
had that other version of The Curlew there.
Thanks to Divine and to the funders for the set, the Peter Warlock
Society. This single-width 2-CD set is smartly presented. There
are some nice pictures of the soloists and everything is fully
documented with lots of local colour. Full discographical detailing
is supplied. The wonderfully extensive notes are by Stephen
Sutton and Giles Davies; no words though.
Capriol Suite - London Chamber Orch/Bernard
Serenade for Strings - NGS Chamber Orchestra/Barbirolli
Purcell/Warlock: Fantaisie no. 3 - The Pasquier Trio
Purcell/Warlock: 2-Part Fantasia no. 9 - The Griller
Capriol Suite (arr. Szigeti) - Josef Szigeti and Nikita
The Curlew - Soames, Nielsen, Aeolian String Quartet
Serenade for Strings; Capriol Suite - Constant
Lambert String Orch/Lambert
Captain Stratton's Fancy - Peter Dawson
Oh Good Ale; Flow not fast ye fountains; There
is a garden; O eyes, O mortal stars; Come, my Celia -
Corpus Christi - The English Singers
Sleep; Chop Cherry - John Armstrong/ International
The Fox; Sleep; Take o take those lips away; Sweet
and Kind; As Ever I Saw; The Passionate Shepherd -
Corpus Christi - Ann Jones, Peter Pears, BBC Chorus
A Cornish Christmas Carol - BBC Chorus/Leslie Woodgate
Six Nursery Jingles - Cecil Cope
Milkmaids; Captain Stratton's Fancy; Sigh no
More; Pretty Ring Time; Passing By; My Own
Country; Fair and True; Piggesnie - Roy Henderson
Sweet and Twenty; Sleep - Nancy Evans
Rest Sweet Nymphs - Truro County Girls' School Choir
The First Mercy - Billy Neeley
Corpus Christi - Flora Nielsen, René Soames, Festival
The Frostbound Wood; The Fox - Dennis Noble
Captain Stratton's Fancy - Oscar Natzke