CD REVIEW - THE FILM & TV MUSIC OF CHRISTOPHER GUNNING
The Film & TV Music of Christopher Gunning
BBC Philharmonic conducted by Rumon Gamba
Chandos Movies CHAN 10625 (UK)
12 Tracks 75:50 mins
The latest release from Chandos Movies pays tribute to British film & TV composer Christopher Gunning, who has composed for both large and screen productions over his long career, but is probably best known for the many splendid scores written for television. So many, in fact, that this collection barely scratches the surface. In his guide to the pieces presented, found in the accompanying 36-page booklet (with notes in English, German & French), the composer admits that "selecting scores for this CD was far from easy," but having the services of the BBC Philharmonic, "suggested some of my bigger scores, and I also wanted to employ some of the brilliant soloists I have worked with over the years," namely soprano Nicole Tibbels, guitarist Craig Ogden and saxophonist Martin Robertson.
For the opening track, "Poirot Variants" (which of course features Robertson), Gunning has woven together a piece based around his quirky theme for the television adventures of the Belgian detective.
Next up comes "La Mome Piaf" taken from material for the 2007 cinematic feature, known here mostly as La Vie En Rose, based on the life of the great French singer Edith Piaf. The heart of the piece is an expansive waltz, featuring wordless vocalisation by Ms Tibbels.
1991's Under Suspicion opens darkly and quite disturbingly, with some furious action writing leading to a big crescendo, before Gunning introduces his passionate love theme.
1996's futuristic Cold Lazarus was the last work by the great television dramatist Dennis Potter. Both the production and its music enjoyed great acclaim at the time and here the composer provides a ten-minute summary of his material for the piece, including his impressive main theme, some exciting action music, and a picture of tranquility for Potter's beloved Forest of Dean.
The popular TV series Rosemary and Thyme, with its sleuthing gardeners Felicty Kendal and Pam Ferris, received a charming main theme, based around the folk tune of the same name, played by Ogden.
Emilia Fox's first role of any impact was for the 1997 television adaptation of Rebecca, for which Gunning provided suitably dark and dramatic music, though the main theme, featuring solo cello is by turns quite lovely and deeply passionate.
The 2003 adaptation of Pollyanna was really asking to be scored by the composer, who has a daughter by the same name. For the production, Gunning came up with a suitably light and melodic accompaniment, including a lovely main theme.
For the 1997 film Firelight, Gunning capably supported the repressed emotions on display, with yet more strong melodic material, with solo violin to the fore, culminating in a passionate love theme.
1989's score for the film When the Whales Came is a thing of great beauty, inspired by the composer's own witnessing of the tragic beaching of some thirty sperm whales, whilst on vacation in the Canary Islands. Gunning's music incorporates slowed-down whale sounds and is at its most haunting when his main theme is voiced by wordless soprano.
The composer returns to the world of Poirot for tracks 10 and 11, which feature music from the episodes The Hollow and Five Little Pigs. Firstly, we have the questing main theme for the former, then a mysterious violin-lead theme for the latter.
This splendid collection concludes with 2004's Lighthouse Hill and its initially largely subdued love theme, with which Gunning strove to "create feelings of romance the stillness," of course succeeding admirably.
If, like me, you enjoy strong melodic screen music, this is an album you should seek out for your collection. Splendidly performed, as always, by Rumon Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic, the album is a pure delight and leaves one begging for more.
Chandos releases can now be purchased from the label's website at www.chandos.net.