Peter Warlock Biography


Birthday: October 30, 1894 (Scorpio)

Born In: London

Philip Arnold Heseltine, alias Peter Warlock, was a gifted music composer, dedicated music journalist and critic from Britain. Keeping his real name for his journalistic works, he used his other name 'Warlock' for his published musical works. He composed about 150 songs and a few carols, some of which gained immense popularity due to their originality and melodious usage of Elizabethan music and folk song elements. The 1920s was the golden time for him when he gave the world distinctive and spontaneous compositions. He is best known for writing the biography of Frederick Delius, a British composer. His biggest contributions to the world include articles and reviews, ten books and 500 transcriptions of early music. He tried his hands at composing music and literary works without any proper formal training. His aggressive criticism often landed him in trouble as it offended senior musicologists like Ernest Newman. His free lifestyle also brought him disgrace. Later on, he slipped into depression and was found dead from asphyxiation in his flat at the age of 36.
Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In October

Also Known As: Philip Arnold Heseltine

Died At Age: 36


father: Arnold Heseltine

mother: Bessie Mary Edith

children: Brian Sewell

Born Country: England

Composers British Men

Died on: December 17, 1930

place of death: London

City: London, England

More Facts

education: Christ Church, Eton College

Childhood & Early Life
Philip Heseltine was born on 30 October 1894 in London to Arnold Heseltine, a solicitor by profession, and his second wife, Bessie Mary Edith. Six years after Arnold's death in 1897, Bessie married Walter Buckley Jones, a local magistrate.
Within his first 10 years of life, Philip moved from London to Chelsea (where he lived with parents and his interests in music awakened through piano) to his stepfather's house in Llandyssil (where he got influenced by Celtic culture) and then to Stone House School in Broadstairs (where he showed academic brilliance).
In the autumn of 1908, Heseltine joined Eton college but disliked the life there. So, he left it after two years and joined Cologne University of Music to study piano which also didn't go as planned. He also attended different concerts and operas for practical exposure.
He tried his hands at Journalism and got an article published in Railway and Travel Monthly. Similarly, his first music criticism on Arnold Schoenberg’s pieces got published in Musical Standard in September 1912.
In October 1912, he got into Christ Church, Oxford, to study classics. During his Easter vacations with Delius, he came out with the English version of the composition, 'Fennimore and Gerda'. After that, he left Oxford and joined University College London to study literature, language and philosophy.
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In February 1915, Philip Heseltine abandoned his studies and joined the Daily Mail as a music critic. In his four months of service, he wrote reports and analysis of about 30 musical events, following which, he started studying and editing Elizabethan music.
In November 1916, his article on Sir Eugene Aynsley Goossens' chamber music was published in The Music Student under the pseudonym 'Peter Warlock' for the first time.
In August 1917, he moved to Ireland where he studied Celtic languages, occult practises and religious philosophies.
In August 1918, seven of his 10 songs were published by Winthrop Roger under the pseudonym of 'Peter Warlock'. These are considered to be his finest works.
Later, he devoted his time to musical journalism and criticism. His writing was provocative, aggressive and confrontational.
From April 1920 to September 1921, Warlock worked as an editor for Roger's music journal, 'The Sackbut'. He had to give up this position when the journal was taken over by the publisher, J.C. Curwen.
Between 1921 and 1923, he stayed at his parental home, Cefn Bryntalch, and wrote his most creative compositions, including the song-cycles, 'Lilligay' and 'The Curlew'. He also studied, edited and transcribed an enormous amount of early English music. His interest in folk music also grew during this period.
From 1924 to 1926, while continuing his work as a critic and transcriber, Warlock wrote a book named, 'The English Ayre', and a study on Gesualdo. He also came out with the Christmas anthem, 'Bethlehem Down', which was done in collaboration with poet and journalist Bruce Blunt,. It became a major hit.
The 1920s were proving to be Warlock’s golden time when his own music recording was released. In January 1927, John Barbirolli recorded Heseltine's string serenade for the National Gramophonic Society and Peter Dawson recorded the ballad 'Captain Stratton's Fancy' for His Master's Voice, the next year.
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In November 1928, the book 'Merry-Go-Down' was published by The Mandrake Press, which carried his second pseudonym, 'Rab Noolas'.
In 1929, Warlock worked as the editor for Beecham's ILO (Imperial League of Opera) journal. Later, in August, he conducted his first and last public engagement, a performance of the Capriol Suite at a Promenade Concert.
In 1930 came his last original works, 'The Fox', in which he composited music to Bruce Blunt's lyrics, and 'The Fairest May', wherein he wrote the lyrics.
Major Works
'Frederick Delius' by Heseltine, a biography of Delius, is considered to be Philip Heseltine’s best literary work. He has very beautifully analysed Delius's work in this detailed study. The book is well-written and is considered a wonderful piece of literature.
He also wrote a long pamphlet to bring back the long-lost fame to Thomas Whythorne Elizabethan, a composer. His writings brought significant changes in The History of Music in England.
Awards & Achievements
One of Philip Heseltine's songs, ‘The Curlew’, represented contemporary British music at the Salzburg Festival in 1924.
'Peter Warlock: The Life of Philip Heseltine' is a splendid biography written by Barry Smith, which provides an insight to the life and work of the great composer and journalist.
Family & Personal Life
Philip Heseltine enjoyed the wealth of his father Arnold. He also celebrated his mother’s Welsh heritage and his stepfather’s Celtic culture as well as his artistic connections. His mother was particular about his studies and wanted him to pursue civil services. Yet, she was supportive in all his professional engagements.
He was in a relationship with model Minnie Lucie Channing, who was also known as Puma, in the summer of 1915. Later, he refused to accept her pregnancy, but the child was adopted by Heseltine’s mother. Subsequently, the duo got married on 22 December 1916 at Chelsea Register Office, only to get separated six years later.
Writer Nigel Heseltine is considered to be their son, but nothing has been proven.
His lifestyle, night parties and heavy drinking brought disgrace to him.
He was in a long-term relationship with Barbara Peache since the 1920s until his death.
Lack of creativity and inspiration to produce original works brought darkness in his life. He was found dead due to coal gas poisoning on December 17, 1930 in his flat in Chelsea. His death also sparked a controversy and due to lack of evidence, it could not be decided whether it was a suicide or an accident.
Philip Heseltine was deeply influenced by Frederick Delius right from the time he first heard his composition at a concert in January 1908. He used to listen to Delius's music during his tough times at Eton college because that would calm him down. Delius was his inspiration and mentor.
His interest in occult practices was the reason behind his pseudonym, 'Warlock'.

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