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
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