Peter Warlock

British composer and music critic

Peter Warlock (born London, 30 October 1894; died London, 17 December 1930), was an English composer. “Peter Warlock” was not his real name. His real name was Philip Heseltine. He was also a music critic. When he wrote about music he used his real name, but when he composed music he used the pseudonym (borrowed name) "Peter Warlock", which is the name by which he is usually remembered today.


Philip Heseltine did not come from a musical family. When he was two years old his father died. His mother married again and went back to live in Wales, where she came from. Philip went to school at Eton College.

He was still a teenager when he was introduced to the composer Delius, who lived in France. They became good friends and Philip made piano arrangements of some of Delius’s music. Later he wrote a book about Delius. He studied in Germany for a time, and then at Oxford where he studied classics. He learned about music by teaching himself. He did not fight in World War I. He was a conscientious objector, but also, his health was not good enough for him to be in the army.

He spent most of his life in London, but he did visit Ireland for a year, and also spent three years with his mother in Wales, and four years in Kent where he lived with Ernest Moeran. Heseltine and Moeran often got drunk together. He became friends with the composer Bernard van Dieren whose music influenced him a lot. He also liked poetry from the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

He died in his apartment from gas poisoning. It is not certain whether it was suicide, but he did let his cat out before he turned on the gas.

His musicEdit

His music, written under the name of Peter Warlock, often has links with his literary writings. Some of the best works he wrote are his songs, especially the song-cycle The Curlew, which has lyrics from poems by W. B. Yeats. One of his most popular works is the Capriol Suite for string orchestra.

Warlock wrote many carols, such as Adam Lay Ybounden, Tyrley Tyrlow, and Bethlehem Down.

Warlock was not influenced by folksong like many other English composers of the time. He liked many different styles, including Renaissance music and the music of Bartók whom he met.

Other websitesEdit