Warlock: The Curlew; ‘In an Arbour Green’, ‘Late Summer’, ‘The First Mercy’, ‘Captain Stratton’s Fancy’ etc

COMPOSERS: Warlock
LABELS: Landor
ALBUM TITLE: Warlock
WORKS: The Curlew; ‘In an Arbour Green’, ‘Late Summer’, ‘The First Mercy’, ‘Captain Stratton’s Fancy’ etc
PERFORMER: Andrew Kennedy (tenor), Simor Lepper (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ALN279
Peter Warlock was a genius; but it was a genius that focussed on modest polished forms – songs, not symphonies. For that reason he has rarely been accorded the praise showered on some of his more musically ambitious contemporaries, even though most of whom could never approach the concentrated mastery Warlock shows in the superb cycle The Curlew, or even an exquisite miniature like ‘Bethlehem Down’. In both of those works Andrew Kennedy shows an absorption, and an ability to home in on the details that matter without sacrificing the sense of the longer line, that often feels just right. His sweet English tenor voice can soar enticingly, but he also has a strong, dark lower register – first shown to advantage at the start of ‘Autumn Twilight’ and drawn out to great advantage in The Curlew. Kennedy isn’t quite so convincing in the rollicking drinking and wenching songs – which to my ears is not a great disadvantage. When you know the sensitivity and bleak insight that lies at the heart of Warlock it is difficult to take his laddish bravado seriously. The sound is generally very good, as are the accompanists. Balance is excellent in The Curlew. A slight rhythmic stutter in the piano at 1.46 in ‘Cradle Song’ is the only tiny blemish. Stephen Johnson

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