Peter Warlock: The Composer

Published: 1997, ISBN 978-1859282168

Peter Warlock: The Composer

By Brian Collins

Peter Warlock is one of several pseudonyms adopted by the critic, researcher, editor and composer. Philip Heseltine (1894 – 1930). Previous studies of Warlock have been almost exclusively biographical, using the pseudonyms as evidence of a split personality and applying this and other controversial aspects of his colourful life-style to an evaluation of his music.

Brian Collins’s refreshing new analysis of Warlock’s output shows such approaches as often misleading. Focusing on key elements of Warlock’s compositional techniques, such as his preoccupation with chordal material, Collins demonstrates that the early songs, often tonally adventurous and heavily influenced by Delius and van Dieren, are natural precursors to the more familiar later style. This later style is more suited to the contemplative and philosophical songs that, many may be interested to learn, make up the majority of his output.

Nevertheless, Warlock has been criticized for writing what Gerald Cockshott called ‘all those songs about beer’; in analysing his choice of subject matter and the respect he accorded to the natural stresses of the texts he used, this book offers more penetrating insights into the composer’s motivations and achievements. As such it is vital reading for those concerned with the evolution of British music in the early part of this century.

Brian Collins’s interest in Warlock’s music stem from hearing some of the songs whilst still at school and was encouraged by his tutor, Louis Pearson, at Bede College Durham who organized a special Warlock festival. He is now a Vice President of the Peter Warlock Society.

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