Autographed manuscript by 'tragic' composer Warlock sells in London

A genuine autographed manuscript by tragic composer Peter Warlock, for his standout masterpiece The Curlew, is auctioning in London on March 27.

The 31 page manuscript carries a £4,000-6,000 estimate.

It corresponds almost exactly to The Curlew's final published score, including arrangements for tenor voice, flute, cor anglais, two violins, viola and cello.

The manuscript is unique, however, with the addition of an extra piano of around 30 bars in length.

Peter Warlock The Curlew-410.jpg
Peter Warlock's score for his masterpiece, The Curlew

Warlock, real name Philip Heseltine, achieved fame and respect as a composer during his short lifetime. Yet the bohemian lifestyle eventually caught up with him and, by various accounts, he 'burned out'.

The composer committed suicide in 1930, aged just 36.

The Curlew is regarded as Warlock's best work. It is based around four poems by W B Yeats, and took several years and many false starts to complete before its debut performance in 1922.

Warlock agreed. "For the first time in my life I really felt pleased with something I had written," he told a friend after the premiere. 

The rare manuscript markets hold plenty of surprises for collectors who love classic music – like this George Gershwin autographed and inscribed photograph for sale


Yeats himself took longer to convince, having been burned by the experience of witnessing 1,000 boy scouts attempt to recreate his 'Lake Isle of Innisfree' some years previously.

The Curlew eventually won a Carnegie Trust Medal, which encouraged Yeats to give Warlock's work his blessing.

Watch this space for more news on the sale. 

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