ComposerChristopher Gunning
ArtistJuno Quartet Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
LabelDiscovery Music & Vision (DMV105)
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Gunning, Christopher : Symphony no 5 , Quartet for Strings No 1 Artist: Juno Quartet Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Although Christopher Gunning is best known for his film and television work, for which he has won four BAFTA awards (for La Vie en rose, Agatha Christie's Poirot, Middlemarch, and Porterhouse Blue) and three Ivor Novello awards (for Rebecca, Under Suspicion, and Firelight) he has gradually been adding to a substantial is of concert works, to which he now devotes all of his time.

Christopher Gunning attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where his tutors included Brian Trowell, James Gibb, Edmund Rubbra and Richard Rodney Bennett. His compositions for the concert hall include nine symphonies and a number of concertos.

Symphony no 5 was composed during 2009 and is my most ambitious to date. Unlike numbers 1,3,4, 6 and 7, which are continuous, it is in four extended movements. There is no strict programme, but the music moves through several phases which could be said to correspond to one's journey from birth to death. The symphony is dedicated to the memory of my sister Rosemary, who grappled with illness throughout the composition of the work, and died as I was completing it.

The first movement is both lyrical and dramatic; it commences with motifs heard in woodwind flourishes, the notes of which will be used in various transformations during the course of the symphony. Otherwise, the movement is shaped roughly like a "classical" first movement, with themes derived from the woodwind figures, a central development section, and a recapitulation complete with a return of the the opening motifs. The second movement is far gentler, and here I was pondering on my own childhood and the early years of my four beloved daughters. A soft flute theme gives way to grander sections, as well as more playful music.

The third movement is about vitality and adventure. It is very energetic, with some lighter sections and some progressively stormy or even warlike music; there's a crash of thunder at the climax, after which things subside and the movement ends as it began. The last movement is the most extended. Some of it is turbulent, some fiercely dramatic, and some expressive. Finally, the music returns once again to the opening motif; "dust to dust and ashes to ashes."

The Royal Philharmonic played their socks off during two exhilarating days at Air Lyndhurst Studios.

My String Quartet was composed in 1999, and revised in 2006. Each of the four movements is based on on a three note motif, C-D-G, with it's four possible transpositions. The first is an arch-shaped passacaglia, and the secondis a fast semi-fugal scherzo. The third is quietly expressive and the last is a bright rondo with ostinati based on the 3 note idea.

The Juno Quartet, Jacqueline Shave, Magnus Johnston, Claire Finnemore and Caroline Dearnely, gave their all and were absolutely lovely to work with.

Works Details

>Gunning, Christopher : Symphony no 5

  • Conductor: Christopher Gunning
  • Ensemble: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Notes: Air Lyndhurst Studios, London (05/28/2011/05/29/2011)
  • Running Time: 13 min. 5 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 2009

>Gunning, Christopher : Quartet for Strings no 1

  • Notes: Cream Studios, London (01/19/2008/01/20/2008)
  • Running Time: 23 min. 50 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1999

    "Christopher Gunning's music is known to millions through his Bafta-winning scores for, among others, Middlemarch and Poirot, but perhaps less well known is his portfolio of concert works which includes seven symphonies and several concertos. His fifth symphony, dedicated to the memory of his sister, is an epic piece, conceived in four movements, encapsulating a life from birth to death. Full of highly charged, agitated figurations, the work pulses with infectious energy; the writing for brass particularly impressive. An extraordinary tribute to the memory of a loved one. His string quartet No 1 is equally serious in intent. Using a simple three-note motif, Gunning manages to convey some very human emotions: stress, joy and poetic intimacy, all bracingly portrayed by the Juno Quartet."
    The Guardian Stephen Pritchard

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