CHRISTOPHER GUNNING is a prolific British composer with a passion for writing large-scale symphonic works, more intimate concert pieces, and film and TV scores. In his concert music he has developed an individual yet approachable, colourful, and highly expressive language which frequently gives his music a strongly dramatic and emotional flavour. In film, he has worked on a wide variety of productions, ranging from period to contemporary dramas and wildlife films, and has won many awards for his work.
Gunning’s career has continually developed since he studied composition with Edmund Rubbra and Richard Rodney Bennett at the Guildhall school of Music and Drama. Although he set out to be a composer of serious concert music, he soon became involved in the media, writing the scores for numerous commercials, television dramas, and films. He also provided characterful arrangements for well-known recording artists. Now highly regarded as a film and TV composer, Christopher Gunning is best known as the writer of the iconic signature theme for “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” and evocative music for Olivier Dahan’s “La Vie En Rose.” Often instantly recognisable, Gunning’s film and TV music also includes “Rosemary & Thyme,” “Goodbye Gemini,” “Wild Africa”, “Firelight,” “When The Wales Came,” “Karaoke” and “Cold Lazarus.” With a career spanning 40 years, he is a recipient of 4 BAFTA Awards for “La Vie en Rose,” Agatha Christie’s “Poirot,” “Middlemarch” and “Porterhouse Blue,” and 3 Ivor Novello Awards for “Rebecca,” “Under Suspicion,” and “Firelight,’” and a Czech Lion for “La Vie En Rose.” His latest commission is for the score of “Grace of Monaco” to be composed and recorded early in 2013. The film is directed by Olivier Dahan and stars Nicole Kidman and Tim Roth.
A collection of Gunning’s music for films and TV is to be found on the Chandos label: “The Film and TV Music of Christopher Gunning.” The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Rumon Gamba.
It is over the past fifteen years or so that Gunning has returned to the very different world of concert music, and has won high praise for his work. First came the Saxophone Concerto ”On Hungerford Bridge,” recorded by leading saxophonist John Harle. It was inspired by a summer evening’s walk across Hungerford Bridge, when he heard a saxophonist busking against the sounds of the city. Gramophone Magazine remarked “The most striking work, by far: this is a haunting work, ending as magnetically as it opens.” This was closely followed by his 1st Piano Concerto, and Symphonies 1 and 2.
But it was with Symphonies no. 3 and 4, and his Concerto for Oboe and Strings, released on the Chandos label, that Gunning really attracted attention. This is what the press said:
“This is fabulous stuff. That, really, is all I need to say, but I’ll say it again. This, quite simply, is fabulous stuff.” “…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.”- Music Web International
“…Christopher Gunning is a resourceful and imaginative composer, clearly fascinated by the single movement form in which both of these symphonies are cast… the third immediately takes a grip on the imagination and offers the listener a full symphonic workout”
“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 motto perpetuo finale brings out the youthful and spirited character of its dedicatee. This is a charming composition, winningly played.” – Gramophone Magazine
“…a Christmas gift for his daughter, Verity. And what a gift it is! …This is beguiling music.” – Classical Source
“…Gunning shows the potential for making a major contribution to the future of British music, and this release makes it well worth your while getting to know who he is right now.” – Fanfare Magazine
Christopher Gunning’s knowledge and influences are widely eclectic and range from pop music, jazz and film music to Ravel, Bartok, Stravinsky, Ginastera and Lutoslawski. He argues that it should be possible to draw on various techniques to express a wide variety of emotions.
Symphony no 3 is composed in a single movement with sub-sections, and is highly dramatic; it was composed against the backdrop of a possibly life-threatening illness. As therapy, the composer spent many hours walking in the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons of Wales, and the work explores the area’s changing light patterns, seasonal changes, and unpredictable weather conditions. Symphony no 4, also in a single movement; by then his health had improved remarkably and it is generally more optimistic in nature, but nevertheless dramatic. He was more inclined to adopt a celebratory mood in some forceful fanfare-like music towards the end.
Since then Gunning has composed Symphonies 5,6 and 7. No’s 6 and 7 follow his fascination with a single movement form broken into several sub-sections, but no. 5 is in four extended movements. With an overall duration of some 55 minutes, this is Gunning’s largest-scale orchestral work to date, and it is scheduled for release by Discovery early in 2013 in a recording by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer.
Also shortly to be released are his Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra with Craig Ogden as soloist, coupled with his Concerto for Clarinet and String orchestra (soloist Michael Whight) and his Concertino for Flute and Small Orchestra. (soloist Catherine Handley.) The Royal Philharmonic is conducted by the composer. The Guitar Concerto is predominantly sunny, with south-European climes haunting the music, while the Concertino for Flute is strongly influenced by the hills and valleys of Wales, particularly in the slow brooding second movement. The Concerto for Clarinet and Strings is more urban in character, with a particularly lively and jazzy final movement.
The Saxophone Concerto, ”On Hungerford Bridge,” recorded by leading saxophonist John Harle, was inspired by a summer evening’s walk across Hungerford Bridge, when he heard a saxophonist busking against the sounds of the city. Gramophone Magazine remarked “The most striking work, by far,… a haunting work, ending as magnetically as it opens.”
The Oboe Concerto was composed as a Christmas gift for his daughter Verity Gunning, whose confident and delicate playing graces the Chandos release. Classic FM Magazine suggested that though “…in a conventional genre” the concerto is “realised here with much deftness, and, in its slow movement, genuine depth”
Gunning loves conducting, and also thrives on working with performers and ensembles such as guitarists John Williams and Craig Ogden, violinist Anja Bukovec, saxophonist John Harle, pianist Olga Dudnik.,oboist Verity Gunning, flautist Catherine Handley, and clarinettist Michael Whight. He has worked with the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Concert Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Mephisto ensemble, Fine Arts Brass, Manchester Camerata, Finchley Children’s Music Group, and Winchester College Choir.