The composer’s real name was Philip Heseltine. It was once fashionable (but is now considered simplistic) to explain away his suicide as a split-personality clash between the critic and scholar Heseltine and the hard-drinking, obstreperous creative genius Warlock. The truth was probably less dramatic: he was a highly emotional figure who felt musically constrained, and enormously frustrated, by being artistically imprisoned within song miniatures, but who lacked the technical ability to express himself in grander structures. Within the field of English song, however, he stands as one of the uncontested masters.
Take, O take those lips away (Shakespeare) is his second setting of those words (1918, the first had been part of his little cycle Saudades, influenced by the wayward chromaticism of the Dutch composer Bernard Van Dieren). The accompaniment suggests the string-quartet layout which is indeed an alternative accompaniment for this song.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2012