Monday, 5 October 2009

'New' musical works

Today I have been mopping up the last of the asylum correspondence and writings, scattered around the archive, completing the chronologisation of this very extensive section of the archive (it fills several large box files) prior to the final cataloguing. A very large proportion of these date from one of Gurney's anni mirabilis, 1925; the writings after this time can be held in just one of the files. The letters and poems are often undated, sometimes difficult to read, and, in the case of the letters of appeal, rather pointeliste in their content. I am therefore relying on the paper types, handwriting, and anything that can be gleaned from the content.

When I compiled the catalogue of musical works, 3 or 4 years ago, I spent a lot of time trawling through all of Gurney's letters endeavouring to locate all references to his music. This yielded information about a number of works for which manuscript material is no longer extant, some of which were verified by Gerald Finzi's catalogue of works collated in 1937, more than thirty works in which are missing presumed destroyed.

However, in my reading through the correspondence at that time I obviously missed a few letters/references, for I can now add some further works to that catalogue:

There is new song setting of Longfellow, being one of the sections from The Saga of King Olaf, 'Einar Tamberskelver', written at around the same time as the Longfellow/Heine setting, 'The sea hath its pearls', of 21 April 1925, which this letter also mentions, alongside the Frederic Mistral setting from this time, 'A la Raco Latino'.

In my original catalogue, a reference in a(n unposted) letter to Edward Elgar yielded the fact that there were further settings of Walt Whitman were made for what was one of Gurney's preferred vocal/instrumental combinations, baritone, string quartett and piano, over and above the two I knew about: 'Ethiopia Saluting the Colours' and 'In Cabin'd Ships at Sea'. To this can now be added what Gurney titles 'By the Bivouac's Fire', which must be his misremembering of 'By the Bivouac's Fitful Flame'.

A letter of 3 April [1926] notes that he has just completed two movements of an Organ Sonata in F# minor. Finzi lists a sonata slow movement in this key for 1925. This could be one and the same work, Finzi perhaps approximating the date, but it could be that this is a new work. It would also correlate with a page of sketches from around March 1926 in F# minor which I had hitherto suggested might be related to other known but missing organ works from this time: an 'Heroic Elegy' for organ and an 'Easter Rhapsody'. This letter also makes reference to the second of Gurney's symphonies: the 1925 Symphony in E major. Here, in April 1926, he writes that, 'Ivor Gurney, whose Symphony in E major would make Brahms gasp, is in Hell, and where that MS is (and how) he knows not.' The work is already out of his hands, a work of which, in September 1925, he had noted the completion of the first and second movements, with the scherzo being in progress. Finzi's catalogue notes the existence of a piano score of this work, but this is now missing.

The final addition to the catalogue is a curious reference to a 'MS Anthem (E. Dolber) of war truly, written 1920 (with New College Oxford).' No title is given; just the fact that it is a manuscript anthem. I am sure the letter reads 'Dolber', although I haven't yet found a poet of this name. The date would correspond with a time when he was making other musical works embodying, if not commemorating the war, such as the War Elegy for orchestra of November 1920. It would be nice if this work did indeed find its way into the hands of New College, who might perhaps have forgotten about it in some dusty corner of the music department...


Philip Lancaster said...

I have just been skating through some of the Gurney Collected Letters whilst dating some unpublished petters for the forthcoming Society Journal and have found a further reference that may (or then again may not!) relate to the elusive poet 'Dolber', whom Gurney claims to have set in his 1920 anthem. In letter 416 of the Collected Letters, which should date from about June 1922, Gurney writes:
'There is a book by a Sussex Poet beginning with D (Dolman?) patronised if not cut up by the Times which has a fine elegy on Edward Thomas'.

It may be relevant; it may not. Then again, this is 1922, not 1920; and if Gurney's set 'D's' work it may be odd that he can't recall his name. That said, it wouldn't be unknown given the evidence of the 'Carol of the Skiddaw Yowes', which Gurney attributes to Ernest Casson, who is in fact Edmund.

Another contender would be Ernest Dowson, but the handwriting certainly looks more like Dolber.

My thanks to Pam Blevins who has been searching through a number of her books for possible Dolbers, as yet without yielding any fruit; and also to Charles Moore who has been searching his files for any further information he may have regarding the works mentioned in this post.


Karen said...

"Dolman" sounded familiar so I looked at Elected Friends: Poems for and about Edward Thomas (Enitharmon, 1991)because Dolman made me think of it. Sure enough, Charles Dolman (1872-1938) had written a poem for ET "Elegy for Edward Thomas" and he was from Sussex (Shoreham). The Elegy to ET appeared in Dalmon's Poor Man's Riches (Methuen,1922) and in the 1944 Poems of Our Time. I've dipped into some of my old WWI poetry books but haven't come up with anything by him save the ET poem. IF Dolman is the source of the 1920 anthem perhaps Gurney saw the poem in a newspaper or magazine?? There is a 30 March 1938 Times obituary that might be helpful to you if you can access it.

notker said...

Are you sure it isn't Dolben? The poet Digby Mackworth Dolben died in 1867 aged 19 but his collected poems weren't published until 1915, edited by Robert Bridges. There's a PDF of the collection available through .