Song of Pain and Beauty – Story of Two Musicians

Song of Pain and Beauty – Story of Two Musicians

There is a remarkable new biography on the market that fans of the British poet and composer Ivor Gurney will certainly appreciate. This book is actually a dual biography, as the author also traces the life of Marion Scott, a prominent musicologist and Gurney’s close friend .

The book was written by Pamela Blevins, probably the world’s authority on this strange and fascinating man and the woman who shared a great deal of his life. Blevins has spared no detail, which makes this book riveting from cover to cover.

British Composer and Poet

Ivor Gurney was a British poet and musician who was born in Gloucester in 1890. A student of composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and at the Royal College, London, he composed many works including an orchestral rhapsody Gloucestershire...a painting of his home land.

Marion Scott, born in London in 1877, was an English writer on music who became an intimate friend of the composer. She was sympathetic to his unhappy childhood and the mental illness that destroyed his genius, and served as his long time friend, colleague and care giver.

Gurney led a difficult life…one beset with mental and physical illness. How he managed to produce the work he did is remarkable considering the challenges he faced. Many of his contemporaries… the composers Herbert Howells, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gerald Finzi and Arthur Benjamin all went on to have careers in music that would bring them lasting fame. Ivor Gurney was not so fortunate.

In World War I, soldier Gurney was wounded and gassed, resulting is his being hospitalized. By 1920 his bipolar illness emerged with a vengeance and the rest of his life was a sort of hanging on as best he could. Against the wishes of Arthur Benjamin and other friends,Gurney was admitted to Barnwood House (an asylum) in 1922. He was later transferred to another facility in London where he died on December 26,1937.

Musicologist Marion Scott

The compositional and poetic output of Gurney was astounding for a man who was anything but healthy for most of his life. Marion Scott was with him all the way, championing his cause with fervor.

Scott, herself, was a woman of many talents and achievements. She studied violin, piano and composition at the Royal College of Music, was the force behind the forming of a string quartet and was the founder of the Society of Women Musicians in 1911. She wrote books about Beethoven and Mendelssohn and was a noted researcher on the works of Haydn.

The composer Gerard Finzi said about Marion Scott: ”When the full story of Ivor Gurney can ultimately be told, nothing more tragic in the history of music and verse will be found…he had no more devoted friend and would be comforter.” That book has now been written.

Ivor Gurney, and Marion Scott: Song of Pain and Beauty Boydell Press, is available wherever books are sold.

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