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.
After his Fifth Symphony, Christopher Gunning felt the need to tackle something on an altogether smaller scale; something simpler, more direct, clearer in its orchestration, and in a way more "classical" than its predecessors. With his Sixth Symphony, he returned to the idea of a single span incorporating several sub-sections, a form which he had already explored in his First, Third, and Fourth Symphonies. As a result, the work feels more like a tone-poem than a conventional symphony. Night Voyage is a sea piece, and was born on a rainy evening standing by the Mersey River. A patch of orange lit the darkening sky and seabirds called mournfully as he watched a large grey freighter slipping majestically out to sea. The result is a tone poem that has obvious parallels with life, depicting a journey through an emotional crisis to a resolution of sorts. The theme of journeying is carried through to his Seventh Symphony. Like the Sixth, the music is continuous but this time falls into six main sections, or "phases," all founded in various ways on the rising whole-tone scale heard at the very start. This affects the harmonic language, but the Seventh is also the most directly tonal of all of Gunning's recent pieces.
Gunning, Christopher : Symphony no 6
In the Sixth Symphony, Gunning is concerned essentially with a five-note figure that is to provide the material for the entire work. In terms of musical language, Gunning may be entirely his own man, but one cannot help but feel influences from Britten, Sibelius and Hindemith, yet these are fleeting allusions - in much the same way as one can trace influences from Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and Reger in each of those three masters. One mentions these names as pointers to listeners who have not encountered Gunning's music, Not for him earlier or prevailing 'fashions' or thoughtless minimalism, but a genuine commitment to his self-imposed task in hand. Those who are attracted to the English symphonism of Rubbra or Robert Simpson, or of current practitioners such as David Matthews or Matthew Taylor, will find a kindred spirit in Christopher Gunning's work.
The performances appear to be first-class in every respect: one can sense that the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is playing with genuine concentration and commitment: clearly, Gunning is more than a competent conductor of his own work, and the recording quality is equally excellent."
classicalsource.com Robert Mathew-Walker
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