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Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930)
The Curlew (1922)
Lillygay (1922) (3 songs only)
Peter Warlock's Fancy (1924)
Peterisms Sets 1 and 2 (3 songs in each set) (1922)
My gostly fader (1918)
Bright is the ring of words (1918)
Saudades (3 songs) (1916-17)
The cloths of heaven (1916)
The frostbound wood (1929)
Bethlehem Down (1929)
Sweet and twenty (1924)
And wilt thou leave me thus? (1928)
Mr Belloc's Fancy (1921)
The Bachelor (1922)
Away to Twiver (1926)
Captain Stratton's Fancy (1924)
Adrian Thompson (ten)
Christopher Maltman (bar)
John Constable (piano)
The Duke Quartet
Philippa Davies (flute)
Christine Pendrill (cor anglais)
rec. 3-4, 11 Feb 1997, All Saints Church, East Finchley, London
English Song Series No. 4
NAXOS 8.557115 [70.28]


There is plenty of variety in Warlock's songs. The Curlew is a poignantly stinging cycle about love and desolating loss woven from Celtic essentials. Lillygay is a cycle with childhood as its subject. Captain Stratton's Fancy and various other songs here are tipplers' anthems - alcohol was part of Warlock's culture as much as it was for Constant Lambert. The dissipation of Moeran's musically creative energies was blamed on his association with Warlock's ale. Warlock was reckoned to have been to blame for Moeran's descent into alcohol and depression. There are troubadour love songs such as Sweet and Twenty and The Cloths of Heaven each as miraculous as The Curlew. There are chaste, stilly dissonances from the Schoenberg-Van Dieren-influenced Saudades. Some songs have an antique Medieval colour while other rapturously celebrate life as in Bright is the ring of words. The selection is very good though I do wish someone had included My Own Country superbly taken in BBC broadcasts by John Noble.

The Curlew is just as well taken by the instrumentalists here as by the Music Group of London on EMI Classics (a constant in the catalogue since its issue on a midprice HQS prefix LP in the 1970s). Adrian Thompson has a more shadowed voice than the whiter appeal of Ian Partridge. Since I imprinted on the Partridge it is difficult to be anything other than highly subjective. One objective difference is worth noting and that is the Duke's tendency to make mildly audible intakes of breath. Some may find this a distraction though the fervour and commitment of the ensemble is not in doubt. Another difference is that the MGL took a romanticised approach where the Duke's bring out Schoenbergian Pierrot qualities which also infuse the Saudades (sung by Maltman).

Maltman's baritone is usually steady-sturdy with a touch of Peter Pears in his voice. The three songs from the much longer cycle Lillygay are very brief.

Peter Warlock's Fancy is well swung by Maltman - well named) as also is Captain Stratton's Fancy. The latter I have always taken to be Warlock's stab at popular sales combining toping as a subject with the panache of Stanford's Drake's Drum. Mr Belloc's Fancy is one of the most successful readings on the disc ... and thank heavens that political correctness has not yet purged the original words. My Gostly Fader with the mystical Frostbound Wood is another that taps into a medieval reverential air. Maltman develops a tremor in Bright is the ring of words - also known as To the Memory of a great singer.

Thompson returns for the First set of Peterisms which explore the the mournful, wilting, Dowland-like side but with Jolly Rutterkin providing some dissolute bravado with its resounding cries of 'Hoyda-Hoyda!' Vaughan Williams managed this poem better still in his 1934 scenic cantata Five Tudor Portraits. The Cloths of Heaven (Yeats) was later set by Thomas Dunhill (memorably recorded by Janet Baker, EMI). Warlock's version is slow and spangled. Thompson and Constable opt for a soliloquising meditative pace for Sweet and Twenty rather than Finzi's flighty setting within Let Us Garlands Bring. Thompson is less than joyous in I mun be married a-Sunday from the second set of Peterisms. He sweetly redeems himself with Spring the Sweet Spring (set for choir and orchestra by Constant Lambert in Summer's Last Will and Testament) and similarly In Youth is Pleasure (The Bachelor) though not sufficent to efface fond memories of the steady-voiced Ian Partridge on an old Unicorn LP.

This is an outstanding number from a superb series now reissued at bargain price. If in The Curlew it must still give way to the EMI version it is intelligently and sensitively sung and the instrumentalists match these qualities. Neither Maltman nor Thompson are vocal perfect but they each bring commitment and understanding to these songs as indeed does John Constable who must know these songs better than most.

The package is completed by decent notes by Keith Anderson as well as the full texts reproduced in the booklet.

The disc shows commitment and understanding brought to bear on a generous cross-section of Warlock's songs and all at bargain price.

Rob Barnett

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