The songs of Peter Warlock (pseudonym of Philip Heseltine) are acknowledged gems of the vocal repertoire, yet they are still underperformed and underappreciated many decades after their composition. No doubt at one time Warlock's dubious personality and shocking suicide caused some people to regard him and his music with some suspicion or distaste, but it is long past time for this fine British songsmith to receive his due and for his exquisite music to find its audience. This 2006 release from Lander Records goes a long way in bolstering Warlock's reputation, as nearly a quarter of his vocal oeuvre is represented here, and its exceptional variety is apparent in the selection by tenor Andrew Kennedy. His delivery of these songs is always appropriate in mood, whether the tone is ebullient or melancholy, bawdy or tender, and his interpretations are entirely sympathetic with Warlock's unusual mixture of Renaissance mannerisms and modern expressions. The Curlew (1920-1922) is Warlock's singular setting of poems by William Butler Yeats, and this performance is clearly the album's centerpiece: Kennedy is deeply communicative of the dark emotions in this short, poignant cycle, and the playing of Daniel Pailthorpe on flute, Owen Dennis on English horn, and the Pavão String Quartet is suitably shaded to convey the subdued emotions of the songs and the instrumental interludes. The surrounding sets of songs, in two balanced groupings, are for voice and piano (except for four distinctive songs for voice and string quartet), and Kennedy's warm and engaging singing is fully supported by Simon Lepper's responsive keyboard accompaniment. Lander's sound quality is natural and quite pleasant, though the mid-range microphone placement gives this disc a slightly drafty recital feeling that lacks immediacy.
The Curlew: Songs by Peter Warlock Review
by Blair Sanderson