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This review is taken from PN Review 83, Volume 18 Number 3, January - February 1992.

FROM THE SAME GNARLED ROOT The Piano Music of Ivor Gurney and Edward Elgar, performed by Alan Gravill (Gamut Classics, Ely; GAM CD 516)

According to my antediluvian Groves Dictionary, only two works for piano by Ivor Gurney have been published: 'Five Western Watercolours' (1923), described by Michael Hurd in his excellent The Ordeal of Ivor Gurney as 'featureless and frankly dull', and 'Five Preludes' (1921). Four additional preludes, clearly related to the five published ones, have been discovered in Gurney's manuscripts, and these Alan Gravill has edited for performance, together with two nocturnes, 'Revery', 'To E.M.H.; a Birthday present from Ivor', and 'A Picture'; all of the preludes, including the published ones, were composed in 1919 and 1920, the other pieces in 1908 and 1909 (but 'To E.M.H.' is undated). Alan Gravill performs the nine preludes and the early pieces, neglecting - wisely, I suppose - the 'Five Western Watercolours'. I shall neglect the Elgar - which is well worth listening to - in this article, and concentrate, for obvious reasons, on Gurney.

With Edward Thomas, though in a very different way, Gurney is one of the most rhythmically daring and subtle poets of our century, and one of the least imitable, largely for the reason that I suspect led Sir Charles Stanford, his teacher of composition at the Royal College of Music, to say that Gurney was 'potentially the biggest man' of all his pupils (who included Vaughan Williams and Holst), but 'the least teachable'. Despite Gurney's praise for 'our great Ben's mastery' in the poem 'Thoughts on Beethoven', and his description of Jonson as 'our greatest builder' whose ...

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