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Dear Music & Vision ...

Here is a new year selection of recent letters from some of our readers. As usual we always welcome your feedback on any of the points raised here, or on any other issues.

From: Walter Harp, USA

Thank you for another year of quiet, thoughtful writing. Cheers for the New Year.

From: Maurice Richardson, UK

I have just found Bill Newman's review of productions of Menotti's Saint of Bleecker Street. I have purchased both the recordings he mentions, but I am fascinated to learn that he remembers the BBC TV production with Rosalind Elias in the title role. I adored it, but no one else I seems to know of it. Bill Newman says it was on a Sunday afternoon, but my recollection is that it was broadcast on two successive Good Fridays and that Elias was better than either of the two recordings available. Does he know whether anyone has any recording of the BBC TV production? I have asked the BBC and they no longer have it.

From: Peter Gutmann, USA

I just wanted to call your attention to my website, . I post material I have written for various publications, including extended discographies of Glenn Gould, Fritz Reiner, Arthur Rubinstein, Paul Paray and others; feature articles on Furtwängler, Bernstein and Toscanini and a new series of 'Classical Classics' providing background and recommended recordings of (so far) a dozen works. I hope it's of interest to you and your avid readers (of whom I am one!). Since my site is strictly noncommercial, I would appreciate any mention you might see fit to provide. Thanks so much for considering this.

From: Michio Shirasawa, Japan

I am a Japanese composer (born 1966). Your home page is very informative. This is my home page. Please listen to my music. Best wishes and good luck!

From: Jason Gross, USA

Anthem for Doomed Youth is an excellent, penetrating article -- especially relevant as we head off to war once again. Bravo on keeping such high journalistic standards in your magazine.

From: Pamela Blevins, USA

I want to clarify a point in Roderic Dunnett's excellent article Behind the Lines, which includes a look at the Imperial War Museum WWI poets' exhibition and a tribute to Ivor Gurney on the 65th anniversary of his death.

Mr Dunnett writes: 'Gurney, whose Ministry of Pensions document -- as Anthony Boden, prime mover of the Ivor Gurney Society and editor of another book of Gurney letters, points out -- indicates that he suffered from "manic depressive psychosis, exacerbated by but not caused by war service" was still writing and (to a degree) composing in Stone House Asylum, Dartford'.

While the Ministry document 'indicates' that Gurney was manic depressive, that piece of information in that particular source has been virtually ignored, dismissed or censored by Gurney scholars until now. The primary reason for ignoring it is that the 'manic depressive psychosis' diagnosis is contrary to latter-day views that Gurney suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. It is my extensive original research for my forthcoming biography of Gurney which has validated the information in that document and proven that Gurney was manic-depressive (bipolar), not paranoid schizophrenic.

Like others, I had at first accepted the idea that Gurney was paranoid schizophrenic and a victim of shell shock. However, I began to question this assumption in 1993 after a friend who suffers from manic depressive illness told me that Gurney's behaviour was like his own. At the time, I was not aware of the Ministry document. In 1995, after I had done enough research to conclude that Gurney was manic depressive, not paranoid schizophrenic (and not a victim of shell shock either), I suggested to Gurney scholars that they might want to reconsider labeling him a 'paranoid schizophrenic' in light of my discoveries.

However, I encountered strong resistence to my diagnosis. It flew in the face of the conclusions of Michael Hurd in his biography of Gurney and Dr William Trethowan, a professor of psychiatry and practitioner, in his published writings about Gurney -- both of whom decided that Gurney had been a paranoid schizophrenic. Since the late 1970s, this has been the commonly accepted diagnosis.

In my research I found that the words 'paranoid schizophrenic' do not appear in any of Gurney's medical records. The Hurd/Trethowan conclusion was based on incomplete research. Trethowan's 'paranoid schizophrenic' diagnosis relies primarily on the embittered, self-serving memories of Gurney's sister-in-law Ethel and places undue reliance on the records from the asylum years (1922-1937) which portray Gurney as suffering from delusions and hallucinations. Trethowan failed to recognize the patterns of manic depressive behavior that had been apparent in Gurney from his teenage years on, indicating a mood disorder, not a cognitive disorder.

In conjunction with my review of the medical records, I traced Gurney's mental, social, intellectual and emotional development from the beginning, and studied the patterns of Gurney's behavior and illness throughout his life and the illness's effects on him. I then laid all the information I had gathered before psychiatrists, psychologists, medical doctors and victims of the illness. All these authorities independently concluded that Gurney was in fact suffering from bipolar illness, the symptoms of which were exacerbated by poor nutrition and other factors but not by 'shell shock' or the war. My findings were published in the Ivor Gurney Journal, 2000, Volume 6 and are available on the official Ivor Gurney web site. See also Ivor Gurney and the Question of Syphilis.

Heretofore, the Ministry of Pensions document has clearly not been accepted by Gurney scholars as conclusive evidence that Gurney was manic depressive. Trethowan and Hurd gave it no credence in their work. The question arises -- why was it ignored or dismissed until I published my findings? As recently as 2000, Gurney scholar George Walter, a proponent of the Hurd/Trethowan diagnosis, quotes the Ministry document in his chronology of Gurney's life which appears in Gurney's Rewards of Wonder (Carcanet) and on the official Gurney web site. Under his entry for 4 October 1918, Walter writes: 'He is not granted a full pension because his condition is "aggravated by but not caused by" the war'. If the Ministry document had been considered by Gurney scholars at any time to be the most important document defining Gurney's mental illness, why did Walter, in his chronology of Gurney's life, omit the most significant information in the document -- the diagnosis of 'manic depressive psychosis'? I suppose I can take some satisfaction in the fact that Gurney scholars are beginning to recognize and acknowledge that Gurney suffered from manic-depressive illness even though credit for my work is being given to the Ministry of Pensions document! I would not say that the diagnosis contained in the Ministry document is definitive but I would say that it has been validated by my research.

From: Douglas Bruce, Switzerland

Robert Anderson's review of the Priory CD by Adrian Partington devoted to Harwood's organ music induced me to purchase the disc, but to be honest, Partington yields to Roger Fisher (in the latter's similar selection of Harwood's works, on Mirabilis, currently unavailable) at almost every turn. While the First Sonata fares reasonably well, Partington is absolutely outclassed in Dithyramb, where Fisher's virtuoso technique invests the piece with a dynamic momentum totally missing from Partington's version.

Sorry to be so churlish, but Partington just isn't in the same league as Roger Fisher, who makes one wonder how come this great music has lain so long neglected.




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