Those looking for a corpus of early recordings of Peter Warlock’s
- that’s to say on 78s - will find their wishes granted with this double
CD release. The great names associated with the repertoire are here: Constant
Lambert included, for the Serenade and Capriol, and then the roster
of vocal artists and pianists; Peter Dawson, John Goss, Parry Jones, John Armstrong,
Dennis Noble, and Roy Henderson. Fashions change in these matters but it’s
still a wholly worthwhile thing to experience these recordings that derive from
the collection of John Bishop, who did so much not only for Warlock himself,
but for British music in its widest sphere.
The discs are divided broadly into chamber/instrumental and vocal/choral, with
a disc devoted to each. Warlock was rude about that pioneering spirit Anthony
Bernard, whose London Chamber Orchestra discs were in many cases premiere efforts.
Bernard is lusty and quick with Capriol and it’s not so easy to
track down a copy of this 1931 Decca - a label that was itself in its pioneering
stages and did much to promote song. We can contrast Bernard with Constant Lambert’s
traversal of Capriol, where the latter sports a smaller, more incisive
band, and where themes are shaped just that much more felicitously. We also have
the well-known Szigeti performance of his arrangement of Capriol, with
Nikita Magaloff. At around the same time the fiddle player recorded his Elgar
arrangements, so was on something of an Anglo kick. Barbirolli’s Serenade
for Strings was recorded with the NGS Chamber Orchestra for Vocalion in 1928.
JB unleashes his portamento-legato lyricism with a vengeance in this obviously
Delian opus. Once again comparison can be made with Lambert whose less obviously
affectionate reading is possibly over-determined to diminish the Delius cadences.
The Columbia recording of the Purcell-Warlock Fantasie is played by the
Pasquier Trio. Rather a noisy copy, this, but what marvellously evocative string
tone, how expressively wrought is this performance. The Pasquier made a sheaf
of elevated recordings at around this time, none without merit. Another example
of hyphenated Purcell-Warlock comes post-War via the Griller Quartet.
The first disc ends with The Curlew in a performance made for HMV in 1950
by René Soames, Leon Goossens and the Aeolian Quartet (one side was re-taken
in 1952). Soames was an estimable artist and his collaboration with the leading
oboist of the day and a truly first rate quartet leads to predictably admirable
results. As with so many of his generation Soames’s diction is not compromised
by the expressive nuances embedded in his singing. The remainder of the vocal
items are a roll-call of the great and good. Dawson’s open Australian vowels
offer plenty of roister in Captain Stratton’s Fancy. John Goss was
the singer most closely allied to the Warlock muse. Here we have the famous sequence
of songs recorded in 1928 - as well as the Goss/Cathedral Male Voice Choir from
1925. Flow not fast, ye fountains sounds too high for him and Diana Poulton’s
lute must have been difficult to balance in early electrical days and was clangily
over-recorded. Still, plenty of spirit emerges and Goss makes his presence felt
in the ghostly Corpus Christi with The English Singers.
John Armstrong was another important exponent of the songs. His Sleep and Chop
Cherry are impressive if one accepts the rather intrusive vibrato. Parry
Jones was a better singer, as these things go, with a wide repertoire. He was
a more artful singer than Armstrong as their respective recordings of Sleep demonstrate.
The second recording of Corpus Christi is with the thoroughly professional
BBC Chorus - with Ann Wood and Peter Pears. Leslie Woodgate was the exacting
conductor, as he was in 1950 when The Festival Singers - with Soames and Flora
Nielsen - sang it for HMV. Both these two performances are splendid.
Let me praise the Six Nursery Jingles which were recorded by the London
Transcription Service in around 1941. Baritone Cecil Cope was on hand and as
with so many of these transcription discs the repertoire is obscure and the recording
very good. There is a sequence of songs by the gentlemanly Roy Henderson. Six
of these are on Dutton CDLX7038. The pianist here is Eric Gritton, whose name
is misspelled in the booklet. Whilst we’re on such matters I think the
unidentified pianist on the 1950 HMV of The First Mercy was Gerald Moore.
This was sung by a splendid boy soprano, Master Billy Neeley. Another mild curio
is the fresh sound of the Truro County Girls’ School Choir singing Rest
Sweet Nymphs in 1946. Nancy Evans was another front-liner enlisted with Gerald
Moore to produce three songs over two sides. Dennis Noble unleashes his strong
dramatic powers in a couple of songs, including The Fox. Another Antipodean
bookends this second disc: Oscar Natzke reprises Captain Stratton, this
time ‘with orchestral accompaniment’ for Parlophone.
As Divine Art’s notes admit there is a ‘missing’ 78 item -
a recording of The Curlew by John Armstrong with the International String
Quartet, which you can find elsewhere. But there are other items that, unless
my powers are failing me, were recorded on 78 but are not included. Nancy Evans
for instance recorded A Prayer to St Anthony of Padua on Decca K866 coupled
with Rest Sweet Nymphs. Gerald Moore was the pianist. This last song was
also recorded by Stevens and Foss on Decca M490. A Prayer was also recorded
by the pairing of Runge and Parrott (Ian, that is) on Parlophone 51 where they
also gave us Sick Heart. Rather more obscure is The Birds (to Belloc’s
words) sung by a Primary School choir on GC3676.
The transfers are first class and so is the documentation, negligible typos aside.
The discography and the notes are in conflict about who accompanied Roy Henderson
in Captain Stratton’s Fancy. The discography is right; it was Gritton.
This generous-spirited production hits all the right notes and the corpus of
recordings it contains will enlighten, stimulate and encourage Warlockians for
a good, long time.
see also review by Rob
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 String Quartet
Capriol Suite (arr. Szigeti) - Josef Szigeti and Nikita Magaloff
The Curlew - Soames, Goossens, 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 - John Goss
Corpus Christi - The English Singers
Sleep; Chop Cherry - John Armstrong/ International String Qt
The Fox; Sleep; Take o take those lips away; Sweet and
Kind; As Ever I Saw; The Passionate Shepherd - Parry Jones
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 -
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 Singers
The Frostbound Wood; The Fox - Dennis Noble
Captain Stratton's Fancy - Oscar Natzke