Christopher GUNNING (b. 1944)
The Film and Television Music: Poirot Variants for alto saxophone and orchestra (Martin Robertson (saxophone)) (1989) [8:53]; La Mome Piaf (La vie en rose) (Matthew Compton (accordion) Nicole Tibbels (soprano)) (2007) [6:17]; Under Suspicion (1991) [7:00]; Cold Lazarus (1996) [10:15]; The Rosemary and Thyme Caprice (Craig Ogden (guitar)) (2003-06) [3:59]; Rebecca (Julia Bradshaw (cello)) (1997) [6:38]; Pollyanna [6:17]; Firelight (1997) [7:14]; When the Whales Came (Nicole Tibbels (soprano)) (1989) [7:12]; The Hollow (2004) [3:14]; Five Little Pigs (Yuri Torchinsky (violin)) (2003) [3:33]; Lighthouse Hill (2004) [4:27]
BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba
rec. Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester, 14 July 2009, 4 January, 15, 17 June 2010
CHANDOS CHAN 10625 [75:50]
The case of Christopher Gunning has been well and truly taken up by Chandos. Last year we had two of his six symphonies and the oboe concerto (review). Now the genre that brought him to wide attention is tackled.
It's mostly suave music for television. We start with the Poirot Variants for sax and orchestra. This is a combination he has tackled before in On Hungerford Bridge on ASV (review). A smooth fantasy touches on train rhythms, Buenos Aires dance-halls and a worldly romantic lassitude. Martin Robertson's saxophone presents the music without rough edges, subtle and undulating: not a trace of rasp. La Môme Piaf - 2007 film – quite rightly fears no cliché in deploying the accordion. It's all very romantic. Under Suspicion leaves such smoothness behind in a gruff nightmare-image speaking of the ruptured emotional landscapes of late Malcolm Arnold … though tenderness does arrive. The Cold Lazarus (1996) music is at first ascetic and doom-laden with whip-like dactyls reaching out. From this Fahrenheit 451 chill arises the most glorious romantic theme - almost Born Free or Howard Hanson Second Symphony. The Rosemary and Thyme Caprice has the closely recorded Craig Ogden confiding Scarborough Fair to the listener in an English countryside evocation. Rebecca showcases the cellist Julia Bradshaw in another dark-clouded piece completely in keeping with the brooding and intensely romantic spirit of the Daphne du Maurier book. It's well worth hearing. Innocent folk voices abound in Pollyana which is heavily freighted with charm. Woodwind solos and piano are prominent. Firelight - 1997 film - is among his most popular scores yet is quite low key and contained. This is not a grand statement and the music is heavily characterised by Yuri Torchinsky's tremblingly vulnerable violin. When the Whales Came - 1989 film - is quite naturally threaded through with the spirit of the sea. There are added elements such as a slowed whale-song recording (like Hovhaness and George Crumb, in that sense only) and a vocalising soprano. The Hollow and Five Little Pigs are from Poirot episodes. The first is very romantic and memorable. The second is sly and ambivalent in mood as voiced by the solo violin. Lighthouse Hill - film, 2004 - is again hyper-romantic and rounded in its progress. I was rather sad that there was nothing here from Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male or from Porterhouse Blue or from Middlemarch.
A wide soundstage complements a lavish audio image each of which articulates the often simple textures yet meets with a fierce embrace the grander statements.
Rob Barnett
Romantic music for the screen - smooth and touching.