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Ivor Gurney and Marion Scott: Song of Pain and Beauty [Hardcover]

Pamela Blevins
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 30.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

20 Nov 2008
This dual biography of Ivor Gurney and Marion Scott tells the dramatic story of two geniuses who met at the Royal College of Music in 1911 and formed an unlikely partnership that illuminated and enriched the musical and literary worlds in which they moved. Gurney's poetry and songs have taken their place as part of the inheritance of England. Scott, Gurney's strongest advocate, emerges from his shadow for the first time. Her own remarkable achievements as a pioneering music critic, musicologist, advocate of contemporary music and women musicians place her among the most influential and respected women of her generation. Based on original research, this is the first biography of Gurney since 1978 and the only biography of Scott. It offers new, in-depth perspectives on Gurney's attempts to create music and poetry while struggling to overcome the bipolar illness that eventually derailed his genius, and restores Marion Scott's rightful place in music history. Pamela Blevins is a former journalist and managing editor of Signature, a magazine about women in classical music. She has published widely on British composers and poets.

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Ivor Gurney and Marion Scott: Song of Pain and Beauty + Whom the Gods Love: The Life and Music of George Butterworth (Composer)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Boydell Press (20 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843834219
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843834212
  • Product Dimensions: 3.5 x 17.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 464,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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In the cruelly brief space allotted to him, Gurney achieved something lapidary and touching: he reigns as the supreme miniaturist of twentieth century British music. MUSIC & LETTERS (A) fine biography. (...) This biography should go some way toward bringing Ivor Gurney back into our ken. That it suggest we ought to know more about Marion Scott is also useful. FANFARE MAGAZINE A remarkable new biography (...) that fans of Ivor Gurney will certainly appreciate. Blevins has spared no detailed, which makes the book riveting from cover to cover. SUITE101 This new biography...comes as near as we're likely to get to the whole story. For Pamela Blevins has not only researched, sifted and assessed every available source with enormous diligence, but she has brought to the foreground the hitherto under-exposed figure of writer and musicologist Marion Scott, and has thus both widened the lens and concentrated the focus of Gurney studies...both Gurney and Scott (are restored) to their rightful place in musical history. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINEThe material about Scott is...invaluable...and the book as a whole, with its superb photographs, will prove a vital source for future researchers. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENTDraw(s) extensively on the published letters as well as on a good deal of fresh research including an informative investigation of Gurney's bipolar condition...Blevins brings a journalistic zeal to the interaction of these two lives.GRAMOPHONEA striking account of two lives bound inextricably together...beautifully produced and lavishly illustrated. FRIENDS OF THE DYMOCK POETS NEWSLETTERThis remarkable volume is a penetrating reassessment of Ivor Gurney...but more than that, a searching consideration of the life and achievements of Marion Scott. CHORAL JOURNAL


This new biography...comes as near as we're likely to get to the whole story.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive Gurney 15 Mar 2009

This book explores the relationship between a supposedly "mad" poet and an upper middle class musicologist. It does this so thoroughly that all our previous misconceptions of Gurney and Scott are systematically given the lie. This is surely, the most heartbreaking tale ever, of a genius struggling to be heard and a woman who believed in him. If she did not succeed in her own lifetime, Marion Scott's continual act of philanthropy, altruism and love, made others aware of this most extraordinary poet/composer. And so he came down to us. His day has come and with it a bonus for all lovers of English poetry and song. Pamela Blevins book is the decisive factor.

She tells us the nearest we'll ever get to know about the nature of his mental illness. She also unashamedly attempts to lift the reputation of one of the 20th century's great reformers in the world of music, literature and perhaps most surprisingly, sexual equality. The male dominated literary and musical establishments may have politely sidelined her own work but Blevins makes an irresistible case for a fresh look at this kindly and remarkable woman.

The research involved has taken the debate on both protagonists to a new level. This is chiefly due to it's lack of over dramatisation and its concentration on facts: facts unknown to Gurney's previous biographer Michael Hurd, who made such a significant impact on Gurney's reputation. Thanks to Hurd he now has his own society, is on the GCSE syllabus (for what that may be worth), and is widely read and listened to for pleasure by buffs and enthusiasts alike. Thanks to Blevins' book more people will be admitted into his sad but ultimately valedictory world.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The new Gurney biography 13 Jan 2009
The first chapter of this dual biography pitches the reader headlong into the Scott story. Her colourful memories of visits to Crystal Palace in childhood show a fascinating insight into her surroundings, and throughout the book her poetic descriptions of places such as Switzerland and France leave a deep enough impression to rival Gurney's claims as a wordsmith. These diversions from Gurney are well integrated enough to make it a true dual biography, and Scott is never the least interesting half: it is her that drives the book along. Detailed footnotes are placed at the end of each manageable chapter, where they might be read without fear of missing an interesting snippet.
This book's only predecessor is now thirty years old. The late Michael Hurd's The Ordeal of Ivor Gurney dealt largely with raising the profile of Gurney the neglected composer. Gurney the poet was marginalised prior to Ordeal (despite efforts otherwise from the Finzi household), but arguably the poems are what has made his reputation really soar. Blevins's Gurney is a well-known poet-composer, and the book strengthens the argument for his being a literary figure, showing how his friends and acquaintances mainly tended away from music. This is not a critical biography, and there is no attempt at analysis of the poems (only in Marion Scott's words)--or the music for that matter--but a good deal about his illnesses and their causes. To read about Gurney is to enter into a man's inner torment.
The best section of the book deals with World War One: a fresh and vivid take on the revulsion felt daily on the Western Front. Vividness is a quality of the writing throughout, a laudable tendency to face up to the reality of Gurney's life rather than romanticise it. Life goes on, before and after Gurney.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Ivor Gurney 22 May 2009
By Herbert Falk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Remarkable for its depth and detail. Two nearly forgotten literary figures brought back to life.
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