Warren, Purcell


Warren, Purcell

Variations on an Original Theme for String Quartet (score and parts)



Francis Purcell Warren – Variations on an Original Theme for String Quartet

(b. Leamington Spa, 29 May 1895 – d. The Somme, possibly 3 July 1916)

Francis Purcell Warren (known as Purcell Warren) was the son of an active local musician and conductor, Walter Warren, and attended schools in his home town of Leamington Spa, and in Edgbaston. He was raised a Catholic and had already written several liturgical settings when he won a scholarship at the age of 15 to the Royal College of Music to study violin and piano. At the Royal College he became very friendly with another student, Herbert Howells (1892-1983) who immortalized him as ‘Bunny’ in his 1914 orchestral suite The Bs. The other contemporary ‘Bs’ were Arthur Bliss (‘Blissy’), Ivor Gurney (‘Bartholemew’), Arthur Benjamin (‘Benjee’) and Howells himself (‘Bublum’). Howells never recovered fully from the loss of his friend, and kept a photograph of Warren on display throughout his long life.

At the outbreak of war, Warren volunteered and went to France as a Private in the Warwickshire Regiment. He later transferred to the South Lancashire Regiment, where he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. Returning to France in March 1916, he took part in the opening stages of the battle of The Somme, which began on July 1st. Two days later he was reported missing in action, his body never being found, and his is one of the 73,000 names of British and Commonwealth soldiers on the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme at Thiepval (another is that of George Butterworth). His name is also one of 38 on the War Memorial at the Royal College of Music. He was 21 years old.

Despite his short life, Warren did write a number of chamber works, and had several pieces performed at the Royal College – even though he was not a composition student – and this string quartet movement was published. It is a straightforward set of four contrasting variations on an original theme that demonstrate a good understanding of string technique. In his annual address to the students and staff, Sir Hubert Parry, the Director of the Royal College of Music, spoke of Warren: “I am afraid there is no longer any hope of young Purcell Warren being alive. He has not been heard of for months. It is a peculiarly tragic case. He was one of the gentlest, and most refined and sensitive of boys, and was of that type which attracted people’s love. He was a very promising violist, and had also began to show characteristic qualities as a composer which were quite surprising, for there was a subtlety and a dexterity about his compositions which made us look upon him as likely to make a personal mark. He endured bravely some very uncongenial experiences in the earlier stages of training, and then he had to face the barbarities, and one of humanity’s tenderest possessions was ruthlessly destroyed.”

Phillip Brookes, 2018




Score Data

Special Edition

The Phillip Brookes Collection


Chamber Music


225 x 320 mm


Set Score & Parts





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