Thursday, 10 December 2009

Peter Warlock: Beard made him a Genius -Composer with a Dual Personality

I found this 'review' of of Cecil Gray book on the composer in the Daily Express. It is a somewhat outdated view of the composer and his personality, but it is still worth posting as it shows how Warlock was regarded by a previous generation. Unfortunatey this view is still prevelant in musical circles today.

Disclosures regarding an English musical genius with an amazing dual personality that was strangely influenced by the growing of a beard, are made today.
They are contained in "Peter Warlock: A Memoir of Philip Heseltine," by Cecil Gray, with contributions by Sir Richard Terry, Robert Nichols and Augustus John (.Jonathan Cape, 10s. 6d.). Peter Warlock (whose real name was Philip Heseltine), creative artist, scholar, critic and, many think, our greatest songwriter since Tudor times, was found dead four years ago in a, gas-filled flat in Chelsea. He was only thirty-six.
"My memories of this extraordinary being," writes Augustus John, " will always be charged with the bitter and futile reflection that, had we but set out in time on a tour into Wales we had projected, that fatal hour might have been perhaps averted."
The coroner's jury' could not decide whether it was accidental death or suicide. And so died two personalities—Warlock and Heseltine. "Philip Heseltine, from a worldly point of view, was a failure," says Cecil Gray. " Everything he touched went wrong.

"Up till the growing of the beard, and the appearance of ‘Peter Warlock’ he had not been conspicuously successful. But the Mild and Melancholy Philip, transformed into Peter Warlock, the Complete Man, was masterful and compelling".
"Peter Warlock" was a mask and protection against a hostile world by a sensitive nature. When Peter Warlock began to gain the mastery over Philip he gradually dropped his old friends and even his music changed from a tone of often dark despair to one of robustness and even irresistible hilarity. Cats fascinated him—and he had one which shared his passion for the music of Delius but arched its back angrily at any other music!
It was to Delius, the blind composer to whom he owed his deepest debt of gratitude. Delius- advised Warlock to take up music and "trust more in hard work than in inspiration".

Daily Express Monday October 29 1934 p15 col. 2

1 comment:

Chris Halkides said...

If Warlock had written nothing but the Corpus Christi Carol, he would still be worth remembering. It is an uncanny piece of music, especially in its performance by The Sixteen.