Reviews

This page contains excerpts from reviews of my music and CD's. Links to reviews on other sites may be found towards the end of the page.

Extracts from review of Symphonies 3 and 4 and Concerto for Oboe and Strings in MusicWeb International

This is fabulous stuff. That, really, is all I need to say, but I’ll say it again. This, quite simply, is fabulous stuff.

I am very excited by this music for it has everything symphonic music should have – tension, drama, a real sense of purpose, a knowledge of where it is going and, best of all, the composer knows that when he’s said what he has to say, and Gunning has a lot to say, he stops. Unfortunately this latter poses a problem for me for he seems to end too soon but in the long run this is good for it makes me want more.

These two Symphonies are splendid achievements. The 3rd Symphony is dark and brooding for it was written at a time of crisis in the composer’s life – his wife was hospitalized with a seeming incurable medical problem and he was diagnosed with a heart condition. It is natural for a composer to put personal matters into his music and this is what Gunning does here, to try and understand his situation. Five sections played continuously investigate the possibilities thrown up by the opening material. It’s cogently argued and endlessly fascinating. If Roger Wright wants a contemporary British Symphony which could be a real and instant winner at the Proms then this is it. It’s fabulous stuff.

Read on…

Extracts from reviews in the Telegraph and Gramophone Magazine of Symphonies 3 and 4 and Concerto for Oboe and Strings

“The piquant Concerto for oboe and strings, for me, takes the palm. Light on its feet, with some lovely moments for individual players in the first movement, it acquires a more ruminative, melancholy feel in the second where the soloist appears to be lost in her own thoughts. The quasi moto perpetuo finale brings out the youthful and spirited character of its dedicatee. This is a charming composition, winningly played.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2009

“This CD gives us his earnest Third Symphony, composed in the shadow of a grave illness, and the more impulsive Fourth, written after he’d made a full recovery. In between these comes his Oboe Concerto, which is beautifully played by his daughter Verity.” Daily Telegraph, 1st June 2009 ***

Reviews of the feature film “La Vie en Rose,” also entitled “La Mome”

"The soundtrack of Christopher Gunning's period perfect music and, of course, Piaf's songs is sublime." - Review in Hollywood Reporter

"Gunning’s contribution garnered the attention of BAFTA this year, and it’s not hard to hear why. His music is written very much in a complimentary style to Piaf’s songs, much of it very lyrical and passionate. His main theme, first heard in ‘Lisieux’, is a beautifully melancholic, though somehow romantic, Satie-esque piano waltz. Joined by strings and glockenspiel it becomes almost playful, but always retains its emotional heart. More thematic material is introduced later in the cue, as Gunning creates a moving adagio. Both thematic nodes are returned to in cues such as ‘Apparition’, ‘L’ABC’ and the final score entry, ‘Dernier Nuit’. Those latter cues are intensely moving at times, with grandiose romantic sweep and heartbreaking beauty. In stark contrast is ‘L’eveil’ and ‘L’Idylle’, which are somewhat sunnier, almost ironic cues, replete with perky vocals and jazz-like instrumentals.
This is a very fine keepsake of a wonderful film experience, with the well conceived selections working beautifully together. Christopher Gunning’s score is simply gorgeous and is the absolute soul of the film; you won’t regret buying this." - Music from the Movies

"The musical companion to Marion Cotillard’s astonishing performance as French icon Edith Piaf is as enchanting and entertaining as Piaf herself, although mercifully with all tyrannical tendencies removed. A mini-retrospective of the original recordings, from the boozy Milord to her calling card, Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, it acts as a masterclass for Piaf virgins, all digitally remastered to show off the vivaciousness and theatricality that made her a star. Christopher Gunning’s evocative score comes as a welcome bridge between these and songs mostly created for the film: Jil Aigrot’s singing on the numbers where recordings were either too old or simply didn’t exist, as in Edith’s busking, is truly astounding, and as much of a fitting tribute to a musical legend as the film itself." - Review in Empire Magazine

The Soundtrack is Heavenly.  "What touched me most about the movie was the incredible soundtrack. In addition to her strong voice and wonderful interpretation, the orchestral interludes throughout left the whole audience in tears. As soon as I got home, I purchased the soundtrack on iTunes. Christopher Gunning, the composer, has done a masterful job. Music-hall numbers crackle with the charge of live performance. Interstitial score delicately incorporates melodies from Piaf standards without upstaging the action or diluting the power of the songs when married with their lyrics." - Full review in Variety

"Le tout saupoudré par le génie de Christopher Gunning" (The whole powdered by the genius of Christopher Gunning) - Full review in L'Antre de L'Horreur

Review of Skylines in “Journal into Melody”

Old favourites such as the Black Magic themes, as well as the Poirot theme are given fresh arrangements, but most of the tracks are new compositions, and often rhythm based, though there are some slower, more reflective entries. It's a very listenable collection indeed.

Extracts from reviews of Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.

"An exhilharating disc, and one which will not disappoint." (MusicWeb International)

"Given Gunning's accomplished musicianship and easily approachable language, thrilling performances by pianist Olga Dudnik, ....and Albany's vivid, voluptuous sonics, this will serve as an admirable introduction to his concert music." (American Record Guide)

Extract from Review of Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, “Storm” and Symphony no 1 by Records International.com

CHRISTOPHER GUNNING (b.1944): You would have to be a pretty unhappy specimen not to find something to enjoy on this disc. Gunning has a natural eloquence and a readily communicative style, doubtless honed by his extensive work in music for film and television. A Rubbra pupil, he shares with his teacher a gift for harmonic richness (in an unabashedly tonal idiom) combined with a clear, uncluttered directness of expression. One might also detect shades of Holst here and there, especially in the symphony. The fine piano concerto is conventional in form, with two lively outer movements – sometimes recalling neoclassical Stravinsky , or Shostakovich, but not sufficiently to strike one as derivative – bracketing a slow movement which plumbs greater emotional depths in an atmosphere of Busonian harmonic ambiguity and unease. Storm! is first cousin to the one in Peter Grimes, a tone-poem of graphic vividness. The symphony, an unbroken 25-minute expanse, explores different moods and the interplay of themes varies as the music progresses in a free and fairly loose structure, valuing vividness of image over formal strictness in a most appealing essay in the genre. 

Olga Dudnik (piano),
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra; Christopher Gunning. Albany TROY 686

Extracts from review of Symphony 1, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra and Sorm! in Musical Opinion.

Christopher Gunning, born in 1944, is best known for his music for TV advertisements and drama piogiammcs, this being the first CD devoted exclusively to his recent serious compositions. It has the advantage of an excellent recording, and as the composer proves himself to be a more than efficient conductor of his own works, we may admire the authenticity of the performances. It is also clear that Olga Dudnik is a gifted pianist, who plays with style and virtuosity when called upon.

The Piano Concerto was written in 2001 and is in three movements. There are varied influences to be discerned in this work, notably from Stravinsky and Prokofiev, and whilst the writing is effective and the composer possesses added qualities of clarity and directness of expression, the material itself does not have the memorability of Gunning's work in popular areas. On the other hand, the layout of this piece uses inherently traditional structures with considerable assurance, and the orchestration is admirably natural.

Gunning uses a fuller orchestra in the Symphony, which comes from 2002 and is similarly assured in its handling of colour and structure. This one-movement work is in five broad sections and reflects a genuine sense of growth in the broadest sense which justifies the composition's title. The influences hete range from post-minimalism Malcolm Arnold and Shostakovich to placing too great a reliance on ostinato in the generating of such tensions as the work possesses. We are forced back on the lack of truly distinctive thematic invention, which is the most serious criticism I can make, as my anticipations are often too readily met.

Storm! sounds like ten minutes of music from a 1970s Hollywood disaster movie. Many listeners, however, will be attracted by Gunning's undoubted musicality and his variegated mastery of the orchestra.

ROBERT MATTHEW-WALKER

Review of “The Big Battalions” in Soundtrack Collector

The beautiful and sometimes serene music was composed by Christopher Gunning. This release seemed to be out of print for a long time, but is now again available..! You can mail Marc van Peteghem from Dune Records in Belgium for more info. He has the exclusive world rights for this release. Click here for Marc's email address

Review of “Firelight” in Musicfromthemovies.com

Reviewed by: Mikael Carlsson
One of my favourite composers is the British gentleman Christopher Gunning, who has a wonderful style and deserves a steady place in the spotlight. His scores for Under Suspicion, Cold Lazarus and When The Whales Came are but a few examples of his tremendous talent. I am equally enthusiastic about his latest score, Firelight, a passionate and deeply romantic score recalling some of Georges Delerue's most expansive scoring. This is a melodic work with several strong themes - sensitively performed on solo piano, flute, cello or violin - evoking equally strong emotions. The score also have a sense of mysticism which often transforms into a darker treatment of the thematic material. A couple of jaunty polkas thankfully give the listener a chance to get rid of those goose pimples, but they soon develop again as Gunning's heartbreaking melodies return. I just love this score - one of the finest so far this year!

Review of “Wild Africa” in Musicfromthemovies.com

Recently there have been a number of television series that could be referred to as super-documentaries or natural history epics, 'Blue Planet' for example, and 'Walking With Beasts'. We are in for a treat however with the wonderfully colourful and informative, 'Wild Africa'. This latest series from the BBC in Bristol contains, I think, one of the most superior TV scores that I have heard for many years, and in fact I would go as far as to say that it is the most enjoyable and rhythmically melodic soundtrack that I have listened to this year. It is the work of one of Britains most accomplished and gifted composers Christopher Gunning. Many collectors will of course already be aware of the multitalented Mr Gunning through his early film scores such as Hammer films Hands Of The Ripper and his entertaining and inventive music for Poirot plus his haunting soundtrack for the movie When The Whales Came, just three examples of this composers amazing works for cinema and TV. 'Wild Africa' is a mix of styles and sounds that consist of ethnic, choral and orchestral. Sweeping and majestic sounding themes accompany the sights and sounds of the African Savannah, whether it be the frequent season changes, or the running of a cheetah pursuing its prey, the composer has managed to make the film and the music work as one, punctuating and enhancing every frame of film with his musical full stops, exclamation marks and commas. Poignant almost celestial sounding tone poems accompany images of snow-capped mountains, enormous lakes and deserts that seem to extend into infinity. The composer also utilises to great effect the human voice, and there are some outstanding performances within the score by both female and male soloists. The score for the series is as diverse and variegated as it is entertaining, and the range of styles within the work is astonishing and staggering.

Christopher Gunning talking about his music for Martini

Somewhere along the way, the loyalty to a long-running campaign has also dissipated. One of the lengthiest innings featured an unforgettable jingle by composer Chris Gunning: "I was first approached to write some new music for Martini in 1970. My brief was to write a memorable tune that set the agency's lyric in 60 seconds. It was explained to me that several films were proposed which would feature various people having a good time, and that a bottle bearing the logo 'The Right One' would appear from time to time superimposed upon the action. The general style was one of sophisticated enjoyment. I went home and wrote the tune that evening. The next day I did several orchestrations to various time lengths.

"For several years I would compose new arrangements of the same tune in different styles. One version was in the style of Vivaldi, another sounded like a Busby Berkeley musical, another was a bossa nova - and so on. To keep the campaign alive, I frequently added new material at the front, returning to the famous tune and 'The Right One' at the end. After a while we abandoned vocal versions and the music became purely instrumental. Two of my own favourites were a jazz version in 7/4 (with the New York roller-skate waitress) and another which featured an American marching band. There have been two spin-offs: Dancin' Easy reached No. 8 in the pop charts in the 80s and, more recently, there was a French disco version which was very popular." – British Academy

Review of Hands of the Ripper

Track 6, Hands Of The Ripper was made in 1971 and scored by Christopher Gunning. The story is about Anna who as an infant witness the murder of her mother by her father, Jack the Ripper. When she grows up, we find her working for Mrs. Golding as a spirit voice during one of Mrs. Golding’s many ‘fake’ séances. One day Anna finds herself in a state of shock following the murder of Mrs. Golding after a session. A psychiatrist who hopes to study and treat Anna later brings her home but...

The main title music for Hands of the Ripper is terrifying with its urgent sounding cello and violins. The more we listen, the louder grows the music, and the more anxious we all become. It all crescendos with bludgeoning
noises recreated on xylophone and amplified by terrifying sounding horns. Afterwards, the music cuts happily to Anna’s theme, a sentimental sappy piece played with flute and harp. The music is happy and carefree, and
suggests of innocence. After a brief moment of silence, the cue jumps to Trance. Here we hear xylophones in the background pondering over a simple 3 note rhythm. The music is dream-like, but very tedious, we wait for something to happen, but nothing does. The trance continues with Anna¹s theme filling the void quickly lulling us into a state of relaxation.

We barely even notice the ponderous rhythm of xylophones in the background becoming more impatient as they spiral up several octaves. Suddenly without warning, violins and horns mark a transition to evil with the same terrifying sounding horns and bludgeoning noises on xylophones. After the murder, Anna’s innocent theme plays once again, but not for long… – Epinions.com

Review from Jacky Lee’s web site

JACKY Love is now / Never will I be Page One POF122, March 1969. A one-off for Larry Page’s label, the A-side is an epic, adventurous track opening with soft, dreamy vocal, building to an explosive bridge. Originally recorded by Jackie with John Scott as a demo for the film ‘Loving Feeling’, the single was arranged by Christopher Gunning as his remarkable professional debut. "...Those dragonflies, summer days, all have gone in a haze of goodbyes..." A spine-tingling, monumental masterpiece. The Jackie Lee-Barbara Moore B-side is an equally brilliant orchestral ballad, with strings swelling behind Jackie’s passionate vocal. It ends too soon though! Producer listed as ‘Finito’, which was the management team of Adrian Rudge and Tony Palmer.

 

 

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November 1, 2011 |