Peter Warlock, the pen name of Philip Heseltine, never settled into a conventional career. He had some short-lived appointments, including one as a music critic for The Daily Mail, however he did get involved in editing, transcribing and arranging early music manuscripts, and writing a major study of the music by Frederick Delius. His first compositions, mainly songs, began to appear in 1917, at which time he had moved to Dublin to avoid possible conscription. It was at this time that he adopted the pseudonym Warlock. In 1922 he completed his first widely acknowledged masterpiece – the song-cycle The Curlew. His period of creativity continued only for a few years culminating in the composition of his most famous work, the Capriol Suite in 1925. The original piano duet version was a great success and was quickly followed by the version for string orchestra, from which this arrangement is made.
The Capriol Suite is a set of dances in the renaissance style, and is very loosely based on tunes found in Arbeau’s Orchestographie of 1588. The suite consists of six movements: Basse-Danse is a lively dance for older folk followed by a stately Pavane; a delicate, yet lively Tordion is followed by Bransles (pronounced ‘Brawl’), a fast country dance which works its way into a frenzy, continuously building in speed and excitement. This is followed by Pieds-en-l’air, perhaps the Suite’s most popular movement, with its beautifully serene lines before the final movement, Matachins, an exhilarating sword dance with its driving rhythms, culminating in violent dissonances bring the suite to a spirited close.