Friday 1 February 2013

Rare Ivor Gurney violin sonata released

A rare sonata written just a few years before its composer was declared insane has been released for the first time.

Gloucester-born Ivor Gurney wrote his Violin Sonata in E-Flat Major in 1918 and it has been archived ever since.

Supporters of the wartime composer and poet pulled the manuscript from the dark and are now celebrating its world premiere recording and score release.

The lead trustee of the Gurney Estate said the release would show that he was "more than just a song composer".

Ian Venables added that he hoped it would "add an extra dimension to our understanding" of the man who lived out his last years in an asylum.

Gurney was only 32 when his mental condition deteriorated to the point of him being declared insane.

He was committed to Barnwood House Asylum, Gloucester, and later moved to a hospital in Dartford, Kent, where he remained until his death in 1937, aged 47.

His musical journey began as a Gloucester Cathedral chorister and organ student, before he moved on to the Royal College of Music where his studies were interrupted by a call-up to fight in World War One.

It was while he was serving with the "Glosters" in France that his passion for writing poetry emerged.

Many regard him as a major poet, but Mr Venables said Gurney thought of himself "as a composer first and poet second".

In total he wrote hundreds of pieces of music but his Violin Sonata in E-Flat Major was one of only five sonatas he finished, all of which are stored among 1,347 items in a Gurney collection at Gloucestershire Archives.

Violinist and musicologist Rupert Marshall-Luck was invited to study the sonatas, and settled on this one to premiere.

'True individuality'

After transcribing the original score into a music-notation program, he worked through it bar-by-bar looking for errors, deciding how to rectify them, and eventually printing separate violin and piano parts to be rehearsed and performed.

The work began in 2009, took one year to complete and was performed in its entirety for the first time at the 2011 English Music Festival.

That performance was believed to be its first since it was composed more than 90 years earlier.

Mr Marshall-Luck said the composition indicated "a composer who was a master craftsman".

"The sweep of the melodic lines, the work's formal proportions, and, above all, the emotional intensity conveyed bespeaks an artist of true individuality."

Gurney's Violin Sonata in E-Flat Major is featured on a CD, called Works for Violin and Piano, released by EM Records.

Source: BBC

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