By Patricia H Kushlis
In October 1926 Philip Arnold Heseltine, publishing under the nom de plume of Peter Warlock, composed a set of six dances called "Capriol" based – likely loosely - on Renaissance dances from Thoinot Arbeau’s Orchesographie, a manual of Renaissance tunes also published the same year. Drawn to the study of Renaissance music himself as well as much drink and sex, Heseltine’s own life was certainly as bawdy and out of control as "Bransles" and “Matachins” (The Sword Dance)” but perhaps also at times as soothing, smooth and sensuous as “Pavane” and “Pieds en l’air.”
Heseltine likely chose the pseudonym of Peter Warlock for his compositions because of his fascination with the occult retaining Heseltine for music criticism and other writings.
He dedicated "Capriol" to the Breton composer Paul Ladmirault. Heseltine first wrote the suite for piano duet then later scored it for string and full orchestras. Warlock as Heseltine conducted the "Capriol Suite" at a Proms Concert in 1929, the “single public conducting engagement of his life.”
"Capriol" was transcribed for wind ensemble by Martin Tousignant in 2006. Each dance is brief. The suite in its entirety runs for just over 10 minutes. The movements are entitled: 1. Basse-Dance; 2. Pavane; 3. Tordion; 4. Bransles; 5. Pieds-en-l'air; and 6. Mattachins.
The Santa Fe Concert Band performed five of "Capriol’s" six dances in its holiday concerts December 13 and 15, 2014.
Here is an engaging performance of "Capriol" by the Norwegian String Orchestra for your holiday listening pleasure.