Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Typescripts and catalogue revisions

This week has been spent sifting through typescripts. One of the strange things about some of the Gurney archive is that many poems - and sometimes whole collections - exist only in typescript (TS). It would be wonderful to one day re-discover the original manuscripts from which they were transcribed.

I have been examining watermarks, paper types and layout in order to bring together some disparate typescripts. A set of typescripts of poems from 1926 are now re-unified, and the two different typescript sources for the extant c.1921-2 pink marbled notebook, are separated out from each other and some of the missing pages brought in from other locations. One version was obviously typed directly from the source, and then handed to Gurney who corrected some poems and completed some of those fragments. These revisions are written in a bright blue ink which is rather distinctive and is similar to the ink used in his compositions of late 1924, so can perhaps be dated to this time. They were then retyped, giving the second TS, titled 'Marbled book with later additions'. Some of these poems found their way into Rewards of Wonder.

Having brought together some of the August-September 1926 collection, original mss for many of which are extant, I was wondering whether there was any intention for a named collection at that time to which these might be allocated. I therefore returned to the asylum correspondence - without luck on that front, but I did stumble across two letters I inadvertantly missed in my compilation of the catalogue of musical works in 2006. Frustratingly these shed new light on some of his work, including the identification of another missing work or two and an idea for another work.

One letter to Marion Scott, dated Aug 5th [1925], speaks of the four movement Quartett in E flat, which in the catalogue is only identified by a reference in one of Finzi's lists and dated 1925. The entry should now be moved to between the Gloucestershire Quartett in C and the F minor movement/quartett, since the letter refers to the F minor quartett as being the next to be written. Gurney writes, 'The Quartett in Eb for strings is just finished -- a noble one, with a Fugal last movement'. Later in the letter he gives more detail: 'a 4/4 grave 1st movement. a quite short G major slow movement and a Scherzo in C mi[nor] more important. an Introduction and (2/3 of it) Fugal movement in 3/2 time -- for last -- one of the unpretending and great things of music perhaps. Next to an F minor -- after which I may do as I please -- having probably equalled Beethoven's great name in them.'

There is also talk of the Lights Out cycle, which was brought together in 1925 from Edward Thomas settings made between 1918-22, except for the last, The Trumpet, which was written shortly before this letter, in July 1925. Gurney notes, 'The new song got done in two days, (the Trumpet -- but also a fine setting of "Words" . . .)'. More importantly, at the end of the letter Gurney writes, 'By the way -- the song "Words" is so fine that save its length it should go into the Thomas book instead of the "Trumpet".'

The second letter that was missed is undated, but probably also dates from 1925. In it he mentions 'an Heroic slow movement for cello, SQ and Piano', notes the last work he had written as being 'an Heroic Elegy in Em for piano and strings' (related to the Heroic Elegy for organ?) and also tells Marion Scott that 'he would like to write a Walt Whitman Choral Symphony which should beat the fine Sea Symphony.'

All rather interesting, but rather frustrating that I missed it previously! Not the only omission I should imagine. Digging into the dark recesses of the archive is almost certainly going to yield more omissions.

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