Warlock's interest in early music resulted in him contributing an introduction to a new edition of the 16th century dance book, Orchésographie. From this project emerged the Capriol Suite of 1926, an arrangement of some of the dances from the book.
Warlock retains the original French tunes of the dances and adds harmonic and rhythmic colour to create a charming selection of miniatures.
Infamous for his supposed suicide and possible schizophrenic character, Peter Warlock is best known for his Capriol Suite for strings, though his masterpiece is undoubtedly the song-cycle The Curlew. Essentially a miniaturist, the greater part of his output consists of solo songs with piano accompaniment. Warlock was also an editor and transcriber of early music, an author, and a critic.
Born Philip Heseltine on 30 October 1894, Warlock was brought up in Wales following the death of his father. Educated at Eton, he discovered the music of Delius and became a lifelong correspondent of the composer. Several attempts at a University education proved unsatisfying, as did a brief spell as music critic on the staff of the Daily Mail.
Unemployed, he spent time at the British Museum editing early music, and met D H Lawrence. The two became friends and in 1916 Warlock, who was a conscientious objector, followed Lawrence to Cornwall. When their volatile friendship ended acrimoniously, Warlock returned to London, where he met the composer/critic Cecil Gray. Also in June 1916, he met the Dutch composer Bernard van Dieren, a great influence and champion of his music. In November 1916 he published his first musical article, using the pseudonym Peter Warlock.
Having married an artists' model, Warlock attempted to patch up his friendship with Lawrence, ultimately to no avail. Anxious to avoid military conscription, he fled to Dublin in 1917, where he dabbled in the occult and renewed his compositional activities. Returning to London, he submitted some recently composed songs to a publisher under his pseudonym, realising that the name Heseltine was now regarded with suspicion.
Following a tempestuous period as editor of The Sackbutt, Warlock moved back to Wales, completing a book on Delius and, in June 1922, completing his song cycle The Curlew. Moving to Eynsford he continued with his early music transcriptions and wrote the Capriol Suite. Living a lavish open-house lifestyle, he was in financial trouble by the autumn of 1928 and was grateful to accept Beecham's offer to edit an operatic magazine and organize the Delius Festival of 1929. The Festival was a great success but the magazine collapsed and Warlock found himself out of work again.
As 1930 progressed, Warlock became more depressed and the will to compose left him. He was found dead of gas-poisoning in his flat in Chelsea on 17 December. The coroner recorded an open verdict, unable to decide whether death had been the result of suicide or accident.
Warlock's music was initially influenced by the Edwardian songs of Quilter and the harmonic language of Delius. After meeting van Dieren, however, the Dutchman had a marked effect on Warlock's developing style and even the influence of Béla Bartók is discernable in Warlock's masterpiece, The Curlew. Warlock's music will probably always be overshadowed by the peculiarities of his character; his friends, however, always denied the idea of a split-personality.