IVOR GURNEY (1890 - 1937)
Ivor Gurney was one of the truly exceptional talents to emerge from the First World War. He was a poet as well as a composer, and one of the most prolific letter writers of all those who fought in the 1914–18 trenches.
Gurney’s talent was not fully recognised by the time of his death, in a mental institution, on 26 December 1937. Yet a few knew of his double artistic gift. Gerald Finzi who assessed Gurney’s music, remarked ‘There is so little one can really be sure is bad’. Stanford, Gurney’s teacher, said that of all his pupils, ‘the one who most fulfilled the accepted ideas of genius’ was Gurney. Whether this ‘tall, gaunt, dishevelled man clad in pyjamas and dressing gown’, a heavy smoker who banged the asylum piano to the annoyance of others, then ‘several times managed to set fire to his bedlinen’; and who survived before that on a twelve shillings a week army pension, fitted that image, listeners to this disc must judge.