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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


In May, Chandos Records releases the premiere recording of two symphonies by Christopher Gunning

Christopher Gunning (b. 1944)

Symphonies Nos 3 and 4; Oboe Concerto

Verity Gunning (oboe)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Christopher Gunning

CHAN 10525

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).

Born in 1944 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, Gunning attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where his tutors included Edmund Rubbra, Richard Rodney Bennett, Brian Trowell, and James Gibb. His compositions for the concert hall include four symphonies and a number of concertos.

Gunning spent his early professional years working in the field of pop music (with artists such as The Hollies, Colin Blunstone, Shirley Bassey, Tommy Steele, and Cilla Black) and jazz (working on albums with Mel Tormé and Phil Woods, among others), and also composed the music for more than 100 TV commercials, including famous Martini and Black Magic ads – icons of the 70s and 80s.

Gunning was also a director of PRS for fourteen years and a fearless campaigner for composers’ rights.

What makes Christopher Gunning different from other composers who have worked in various popular and commercial fields of music is that he also devotes himself wholly to composing large-scale works for the concert hall, in a style that nods towards contemporary influences while trying to communicate directly with listeners.

On this disc Gunning conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the premiere recording of Symphonies Nos 3 and 4, coupling them with the Concerto for Oboe and String Orchestra. Symphony No. 3 was composed in the aftermath of turbulent personal experiences during the year 2005. An expression of the anxiety that arose from those experiences, the work traces an at times chaotic musical landscape that is also colourfully inspired by the Welsh countryside to which Gunning escaped.

While Symphony No. 3 is predominantly unsettled, if hopeful, in Symphony No. 4 the composer’s view of the world has shifted. Here the listener is treated to a sense of triumph over adversity, the work taking on a more direct and tonal expression.

Gunning composed the Concerto for Oboe and String Orchestra as a Christmas present for his daughter Verity, an oboist, who here performs the solo part. While the outer movements have a bright and youthful character, Middle Eastern influences are evident in the central movement which was composed on the day, in November 2004, on which the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died; it reflects the composer’s general sense of sorrow for the region.

This disc offers definitive performances, bearing the composer’s imprimatur, and is the first in a projected series devoted to music by Christopher Gunning.

More on Christopher Gunning at


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