Hyperion Records

Gurney, Ivor (1890-1937)  

Ivor Gurney

born: 28 August 1890
died: 26 December 1937
country: United Kingdom

Ivor Bertie Gurney was born on 28 August 1890 at No 3 Queen Street, Gloucester—a house whose cramped quarters served both as home and workshop for his father’s tailoring business. Though the family lived in modest comfort, work inevitably took precedence over any pretensions to culture. It was therefore a singular stroke of good fortune that a local curate volunteered to stand as godfather at the boy’s christening. That curate, Alfred Hunter Cheesman, took his duties seriously and actively encouraged the young boy as he began to discover artistic gifts that inevitably estranged him from the rest of the Gurney family. He watched over him when he became a chorister of Gloucester Cathedral, allowed him the run of his extensive library and supported him when, in 1906, he enrolled as an articled pupil of the cathedral organist, Dr Herbert Brewer, thereby announcing his intention to make music his career. In 1911 an open scholarship of £40 per annum (plus a matching sum from Cheesman) enabled him to attend the Royal College of Music as a composition pupil of Sir Charles Stanford. In due course he obtained his diploma and had war not broken out in August 1914 would have begun to carve out a career. Instead, he immediately volunteered for army service—only to be turned down because of poor eyesight. In 1915, however, the army was less inclined to pick and choose. On 9 February he was drafted into the 2nd/5th Gloucesters Battalion. By May 1916 he was in France, serving as a private.

Letters from the trenches show that he endured the dangers and discomforts of front-line service with remarkable cheerfulness. Buoyed up by the comradeship of his fellow soldiers, he seems to have felt a sense of ‘belonging’—of no longer being an odd man out. He was, if anything, at peace with himself for the first time in his life. He was even able to write songs in the trenches—though poetry now became a more practical means of self-expression. Severn and Somme, his first volume of poems, was published in 1917. But in that same year, on Good Friday, he sustained a minor bullet wound, and in September, on or about the 10th, inhaled poisoned gas. The actual amount seems not to have been large, but when added to a degree of shell-shock it was sufficient to invalid him back to Blighty. Deprived of the comradeship of the trenches, his progress under the care of the various war hospitals in which he was placed was marked by increasing mood swings, culminating in June 1918 with a serious threat of suicide. Even so, he was soon deemed fit enough to be discharged and in October 1918 he returned to Gloucester to pick up the threads of his career as best he could.

He resumed his scholarship at the Royal College in January 1919, studying this time under Vaughan Williams. Songs and poems (a second volume, War’s Embers, appeared in 1919) now began to pour from him—but, even as they did, his behaviour became increasingly erratic and unpredictable, so that in April 1921 he was obliged to abandon his studies. He returned to Gloucester, but was unable to hold down any job, musical or otherwise. His behaviour now grew so alarming that in September 1922 his family felt obliged to commit him, for his own safety, to the care of the local asylum. In December he was transferred to the City of London Mental Hospital, Dartford, Kent, where his ability to compose music, or write poems, gradually crumbled into incoherence. He died, from pulmonary tuberculosis, on 26 December 1937.

Much ink has been spilled over the nature and cause of Ivor Gurney’s mental deterioration. At first it was thought that his wartime experiences were wholly to blame. Later commentators favoured an inherited tendency to paranoid schizophrenia as the explanation. The most recent research, however, suggests that the origin of his decline is most likely to be found in a sexual indiscretion during his student days, almost exactly mirroring the circumstances that brought about the premature deaths of Schubert, Schumann, and Hugo Wolf!

from notes by Michael Hurd 2001

Albums
'Gurney: Ludlow and Teme & The Western Playland; Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge' (CDH55187)
Gurney: Ludlow and Teme & The Western Playland; Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge
Buy by post £4.40 CDH55187  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I  
'Gurney: Severn Meadows & other songs' (CDA67243)
Gurney: Severn Meadows & other songs
Buy by post £8.40 CDA67243  Last few CD copies remaining Composers of World War I  
'English Orchestral Songs' (CDA67065)
English Orchestral Songs
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA67065  Archive Service  
'On this Island' (CDA67227)
On this Island
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA67227  Archive Service  
'Songs by Finzi and his Friends' (CDH55084)
Songs by Finzi and his Friends
Buy by post £4.40 CDH55084  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I  
'The Power of Love' (CDA67888)
The Power of Love
Buy by post £8.40 CDA67888  Composers of World War I  
'Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge; Gurney: Ludlow and Teme & The Western Playland' (CDH55187)
Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge; Gurney: Ludlow and Teme & The Western Playland
Buy by post £4.40 CDH55187  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I  
'War's Embers' (CDH55237)
War's Embers
Buy by post £4.40 CDH55237  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I  
'War's Embers' (CDD22026)
War's Embers
Buy by post £27.98 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDD22026  2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) — Archive Service  
'A Treasury of English Song' (HYP30)
A Treasury of English Song
HYP30  Super-budget price sampler — Deleted  
'Hyperion monthly sampler – August 2014' (HYP201408)
Hyperion monthly sampler – August 2014
HYP201408  Download-only monthly sampler  
On other labels
'Gurney: Ludlow and Teme; Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge; Warlock: The Curlew' (CKD296)
Gurney: Ludlow and Teme; Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge; Warlock: The Curlew
CKD296  Download only  
'No Exceptions No Exemptions' (SIGCD401)
No Exceptions No Exemptions
SIGCD401  Download only 10 November 2014 Release  
'Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge; Warlock: The Curlew; Gurney: Ludlow and Teme' (CKD296)
Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge; Warlock: The Curlew; Gurney: Ludlow and Teme
CKD296  Download only  
Alphabetical listing of all musical works
A cradle song (Gurney)
A gray day and quiet  First line to Last hours (Gurney)
All night under the moon (Gurney)
Along the field as we came by  First line to The aspens, No 5 of The Western Playland (Gurney)
An Epitaph (Gurney)
As I came by Blaweary  First line to Blaweary (Gurney)
As I was lying on Black Stitchel  First line to Black Stitchel (Gurney)
As I was walking all alane  First line to The twa corbies (Gurney)
Black Stitchel (Gurney)
Blaweary (Gurney)
Bread and cherries (Gurney)
By a bierside (Gurney)
By a bierside (Gurney/Howells)
Cathleen ni Houlihan (Gurney)
Come, sleep, and with thy sweet deceiving  First line to Sleep, No 4 of Five Elizabethan Songs (Gurney)
Desire in Spring (Gurney)
Down by the salley gardens (Gurney)
Edward, Edward (Gurney)
Epitaph in Old Mode (Gurney)
Even such is time (Gurney)
Far in a western brookland  No 2 of Ludlow and Teme (Gurney)
Five Elizabethan Songs (Gurney)
Five Elizabethan Songs (Gurney/Finzi)
Golden friends  No 3 of The Western Playland (Gurney)
Goodnight to the meadow (Gurney)
Ha'nacker Mill (Gurney)
Hawk and Buckle (Gurney)
I have come to the borders of sleep  First line to Lights Out, No 4 of Lights Out (Gurney)
I will go with my father a-ploughing (Gurney)
I'm homesick for my hills again  First line to In Flanders (Gurney)
I'm homesick for my hills again  First line to In Flanders (Gurney/Howells)
In Flanders (Gurney)
In Flanders (Gurney/Howells)
In the wild October night-time  First line to The night of Trafalgar (Gurney)
Into my heart an air that kills  First line to The far country, No 7 of The Western Playland (Gurney)
Is my team ploughing?  No 6 of The Western Playland (Gurney)
Last hours (Gurney)
Lights Out  No 4 of Lights Out (Gurney)
Lights Out (Gurney)
Loveliest of Trees  No 2 of The Western Playland (Gurney)
Ludlow and Teme (Gurney)
Ludlow fair  No 4 of Ludlow and Teme (Gurney)
March  No 8 of The Western Playland (Gurney)
Most Holy Night (Gurney)
Nine of the clock (Gurney)
On the idle hill of summer  No 5 of Ludlow and Teme (Gurney)
Only the wanderer knows England's graces  First line to Severn Meadows (Gurney)
Only the wanderer, Op 13b No 4 (Finzi)
Orpheus  No 1 of Five Elizabethan Songs (Gurney)
Orpheus  No 1 of Five Elizabethan Songs (Gurney/Finzi)
Orpheus with his lute made trees  First line to Orpheus, No 1 of Five Elizabethan Songs (Gurney)
Reveille  No 1 of The Western Playland (Gurney)
Sally is gone that was so kindly  First line to Ha'nacker Mill (Gurney)
Severn Meadows (Gurney)
Sleep  No 4 of Five Elizabethan Songs (Gurney)
Sleep  No 4 of Five Elizabethan Songs (Gurney/Finzi)
Spring  No 5 of Five Elizabethan Songs (Gurney)
Spring  No 5 of Five Elizabethan Songs (Gurney/Finzi)
Tears  No 2 of Five Elizabethan Songs (Gurney)
The aspens  No 5 of The Western Playland (Gurney)
The boat is chafing (Gurney)
The cloths of heaven (Gurney)
The far country  No 7 of The Western Playland (Gurney)
The fiddler of Dooney (Gurney)
The fields are full (Gurney)
The folly of being comforted (Gurney)
The lads in their hundreds to Ludlow come in for the fair  First line to Ludlow fair, No 4 of Ludlow and Teme (Gurney)
The leaves fall gently on the grass  First line to Epitaph in Old Mode (Gurney)
The Lent Lily  No 7 of Ludlow and Teme (Gurney)
The night of Trafalgar (Gurney)
The old brown thorn-trees break in two  First line to Cathleen ni Houlihan (Gurney)
The ship (Gurney)
The singer (Gurney)
The sun at noon to higher air  First line to March, No 8 of The Western Playland (Gurney)
The twa corbies (Gurney)
The Western Playland (Gurney)
There was no song nor shout of joy  First line to The ship (Gurney)
This is a sacred city, built of marvellous earth  First line to By a bierside (Gurney)
This is a sacred city, built of marvellous earth  First line to By a bierside (Gurney/Howells)
Thou didst delight my eyes (Gurney)
'Tis spring; come out to ramble  First line to The Lent Lily, No 7 of Ludlow and Teme (Gurney)
'Tis time, I think, by Wenlock town  No 3 of Ludlow and Teme (Gurney)
To violets (Gurney)
Twice a week  No 4 of The Western Playland (Gurney)
Under the greenwood tree  No 3 of Five Elizabethan Songs (Gurney)
Under the greenwood tree  No 3 of Five Elizabethan Songs (Gurney/Finzi)
Wake: the silver dusk returning  First line to Reveille, No 1 of The Western Playland (Gurney)
Weep you now more, sad fountains  First line to Tears, No 2 of Five Elizabethan Songs (Gurney)
Welcome, maids-of-honour!  First line to To violets (Gurney)
When I play on my fiddle in Dooney  First line to The fiddler of Dooney (Gurney)
When I was one-and-twenty  No 6 of Ludlow and Teme (Gurney)
When smoke stood up from Ludlow  No 1 of Ludlow and Teme (Gurney)
Where is landlord of old Hawk and Buckle  First line to Hawk and Buckle (Gurney)
Why does your brand sae drop wi' blude  First line to Edward, Edward (Gurney)
With rue my heart is laden  First line to Golden friends, No 3 of The Western Playland (Gurney)
You are my sky (Gurney)
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