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Peter Warlock

Peter Warlock Composer

Benedicamus Domino

Performances: 11
Tracks: 11
  • Benedicamus Domino
    Year: 1918
    Genre: Other Choral
    Pr. Instrument: Chorus/Choir
Composed in 1918, Benedicamus Domino was among the clutch of songs composed over a fortnight announcing—after years of uncertainty and false starts—the crystallization of the Warlock genius. With such things as My gostly fader, Lullaby, The Bayly Berith the Bell Away, As Ever I Saw, Whenas the Rye, and the second setting of Take, O Take Those Lips Away, came carols—two to Cornish texts, the melting As Dew in Aprylle, and Benedicamus Domino—inaugurating a vein for which he showed an especial affinity, producing, in his brief career, a trove recognized by commentators as among the finest of all 20th century carols. In Benedicamus Domino, an anonymous 15th century Latin poem proclaims the Virgin-born God made an immortal man, set by Warlock to an ascending fanfare-like figure introducing each of its four verses, suffused by an ineffable gladness announcing one of the central mysteries of the Christian faith. Warlock has been called "a Faust for the Jazz Age." Beyond Benedicamus Domino's joyous simplicity—an aura of radiance suddenly revealed—lay a probing of spiritual realities more profound than doctrinaire believers might imagine. In his teens Warlock had been fascinated by the occult, an interest that deepened during the year spent in Ireland, over 1917-1918 to avoid conscription, into actual traffick in the black arts. Cecil Gray, his boon companion and first biographer, notes, "...a large number of his notebooks belonging to this period are filled with extracts from and comments upon works dealing with every aspect of [the occult], from the most highly scientific and elaborately technical aspects of astrology to the method of divination by means of the tarot, and from the purely philosophic and theoretical side of magic, as found in the writings of Eliphas Levi, down to its actual practice according to formulas, rituals, and incantations contained in such works as The Book of Abramelin the Mage and the writings of Cornelius Agrippa." Agrippa, by the way, briefly appears in Prokofiev's opera The Fiery Angel (1919-1927). Gray concludes, "From these activities Philip undoubtedly suffered certain psychological injuries from which, in my opinion, he never entirely recovered...." Barry Smith, in his 1994 biography, Peter Warlock: The Life of Philip Heseltine, reports that for a time during this period Warlock was heavily involved with one Hester Dowden, a medium who boasted of having been a priest of Isis during the reign of Rameses II, and speculates that her influence may have prompted his creativity to flourish.

© Adrian Corleonis, Rovi
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