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  • Gallery » Christopher Gunning
    No images may be used without permission October 11 2011 Home About Christopher Buy CDs Film TV scores Concert Music Listen Discography Shop Videos Reviews Gallery Writings My Works Concert Reviews Blog Contact Follow Me HOME ABOUT BUY CDs FILM

    Original URL path: http://www.christopher-gunning.co.uk/gallery/nggallery/main/flowers-in-the-garden (2016-02-16)
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  • Gallery » Christopher Gunning
    No images may be used without permission October 11 2011 Home About Christopher Buy CDs Film TV scores Concert Music Listen Discography Shop Videos Reviews Gallery Writings My Works Concert Reviews Blog Contact Follow Me HOME ABOUT BUY CDs FILM

    Original URL path: http://www.christopher-gunning.co.uk/gallery/nggallery/main/winter-20102011 (2016-02-16)
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  • Gallery » Christopher Gunning
    images may be used without permission October 11 2011 Home About Christopher Buy CDs Film TV scores Concert Music Listen Discography Shop Videos Reviews Gallery Writings My Works Concert Reviews Blog Contact Follow Me HOME ABOUT BUY CDs FILM TV

    Original URL path: http://www.christopher-gunning.co.uk/gallery/nggallery/main/portraits (2016-02-16)
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  • Gallery » Christopher Gunning
    images may be used without permission October 11 2011 Home About Christopher Buy CDs Film TV scores Concert Music Listen Discography Shop Videos Reviews Gallery Writings My Works Concert Reviews Blog Contact Follow Me HOME ABOUT BUY CDs FILM TV

    Original URL path: http://www.christopher-gunning.co.uk/gallery/nggallery/main/awards (2016-02-16)
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  • Blog » Christopher Gunning
    are given a longish melody which is taken up by the upper strings and in the final pages the whole orchestra bursts forth with increasingly entangled perrorations There is no doubting the skill and seriousness of this composer and Vir has produced a work of great interest and drama The thrills and spills from the orchestra are terribly impressive there are also formiddable parts for the piano and harp and a gigantic percussion section If I grew impatient with what I perceived as a certain lack of connection from episode to episode my feelings were not shared by all My friend loved every minute of it and when I dared express a slightly negative view grew rather cross so I will listen again on iPlayer and I suggest dear reader that you listen for yourself too The next item Sibelius s Violin Concerto also presented some difficulties It s a great favourite of mine and I m sorry to say this performance did not always do it for me Lisa Batiashvili is a very confident and gifted player and barring one or two excusable intonation fluffs negotiated the first movement s technical difficulties as if most didn t exist However this movement was curiously lacking in drama or sufficient depth of expression partly this was due to her resistance to take her time over things generally it all seemed quite breathless to me Did the orchestra also feel as if on auto pilot Strange The second movement fared better although once again I felt soloist and orchestra could have lingered a little more In the final movement Batiashvili displayed her formiddable technique and seemed happiest here Her encore was an arrangement of Tsintsadze s Lele a Georgian piece few would have known prior to the concert but charming in its way The Celtic Symphony is one of several Bantock works to be performed at the Proms this year following a lengthy period of almost total neglect During his own lifetime things were remarkably different and Bantock was regarded as one of Britain s greatest composers much admired by Elgar and Vaughan Williams among others The late Vernon Handley was largely responsible for keeping the Bantock flame from bbeing totally extintuished but despite ardent support from him and some other dedicated supporters Bantock has remained a background figure talked of in respectful terms but seldom played His music is steeped in tradition in general and the functional tonality of the late romantics in particular Once Vaughan Williams and then the likes of Britten and Tippett came on the scene Bantock s world became an unfashionable one but now we can listen once again with fresh ears and it will be interesting to see if his music gains general support once more It would be thrilling to report that this almost forgotten man s work reveals blazing genius but the Celtic Symphony doesn t quite support such a view Bantock s world is a quieter more intimate place where gentle melodies and sometimes mystical harmonies reside The Celtic Symphony is beautifully written for his chosen string orchestra and wait for it six harps We are in the dreamy landscapes of Scotland but with dance like rhythms and themes never far away The mysterious atmospheres were beautifully presented by Oramo the pianissimo strings perfectly balanced and oh so breathtakingly quiet When things livened up the strings responded to Oramo with joyous vivacity and we were reminded of Sibelius s more energetic moments or even Bartok s flirtations with folk dance music The whole piece was really beautifully played including the one area towards the end where the harps predominate It s all lovely unpretentious and never pushy and if you tire of the full square phrases and to twenty first century ears relatively unadventurous rhythms then perhaps you can enjoy some quietitude and Scottish geniality I loved Oramo s appraoch to the Enigma Variations too This is a conductor determined to get to grips with British music and how thankful we should be for that There was nothing to object to in his choice of tempi for each variation no major surprises no distortions no gimmics Moreover there was plenty to admire as the various soloists from the BBC SO took their turns If I mention Richard Hosford s clarinet solo in Romanza and Norbert Blume s viola solo in Ysobel I don t mean to belittle the many other solo passages which caught my ear all were excellent If I didn t burst into tears during Nimrod this time it s no matter there were several other variations that brought a tightened brow the whimsical Dorabella and B G N for instance I would have preferred to hear more from the organ yes MORE from the Albert Hall s organ during the finale where as my friend remarked you hear Elgar returning home after visiting his friends but never mind Oramo still brought this work and this concert to a splendid conclusion Christopher Gunning August 22 2013 PROM 51 20 h August 2013 Royal Albert Hall London Tippett Britten Elgar Ian Bostridge tenor London Symphony Orchestra Daniel Harding conductor Tippett Fanfare no 5 Fanfare from The Mask of Time arr M Bowen 1986 Tippett Concerto for Double String Orchestra 1938 9 Britten Les Illuminations Op 18 1939 Elgar Symphony no 2 in Eb major Op 63 1909 11 Tonight s concert by the LSO was dedicated to the memory of Sir Colin Davis who would have conducted it had he not died in April of this year Roger Wright in a programme tribute wrote that Sir Colin would have included a symphony by Sibelius as well as the works by Britten and Tippett Davis loved Sibelius but in the event we had Elgar s 2 nd Symphony instead included because it is a piece which contains farewell references it is by a composer close to Colin s heart and of whose music he was such a very fine interpreter If you thought this programme was to be a safe celebration of British music from the early 20 th Century think again All three composers in their different ways were affected by the politics of the period and this was one of several reasons why the evening proved to be so interesting and affecting For me the Tippett fanfare performed with appropriate gusto by the LSO s brass and percussion managed to outstay its welcome even in its brief 5 minutes but if it s hardly top drawer stuff the Concerto for Double String Orchestra most certainly is Its sprightly jazz influenced rhythms knocked players aback in the 1940 s and it took a recording by the young Benjamin Britten for concert promoters and audiences to wake up to the fact that this is a highly original brilliantly constructed and wonderfully attractive piece But this is not simply easy listening music In 1939 Britain was about to be plunged into WW2 and it shows in the uneasy counterpoint between opposing forces as well as the deeply expressive music in the central slow movement Many of Tippett s hallmarks are to be found here the counterpoint stems from Baroque influences the forms hark back to Beethoven and of course those bluesy jazzy melodic inflections which help give much of Tippett s music its very personal flavour are present too That middle movement is particularly beautiful and here Tippett s love of folksong plays a role If both Tippett and Britten were to react against the nostalgia of Vaughan Williams s view of folk material and find new ways of doing things they both shared the senior master s love of it In 2013 players no longer find any difficulty in tackling Tippett s cross rhythms as was demonstrated by the strings of the LSO under Harding The outer movements were lively and pointed and the middle movement simply beautiful with calmly expressive solos from Carmine Lauri the leader and Rebecca Gilliver cello Overall I loved the unforced way in which the piece was interpreted by the soloists and ensemble as a whole Britten was working on Les Illuminations at the same time as Tippett on his Double Concerto and juxtaposing the two works demonstrated some of the radically different ways in which the two composers thought as well as some similarities Britten would always be the more natural of the two composing at a rate of knots and producing works with a flair for melody texture colour and a genius for working in relatively small scale forms which nevertheless pack a powerful emotional punch No doubt some of the turbulence of the settings is attributable to the imminent war Britten like Tippett was to become a conscientious objector and sought temporary refuge in the US and how destabilising the times must have been to the young composer The nine main sections which make up Les Illuminations are settings of poems by Arthur Rimbaud whose hallucinatory way of looking at things greatly appealed to Britten The string writing is astonishingly fluent and varied for a composer in his mid twenties and the word setting already shows Britten in command of techniques which would see him through to the end of his life even if he would always be happiest when setting the English language How lucky we were to have the opportunity of hearing the remarkable Ian Bostridge let loose on this early and appealing work Clear diction perfect intonation a vocal quality which simply melts your heart but is strong enough to carry to the farthest reaches of the Albert Hall what more could you possibly want One almost felt Bostridge to be a perfect synthesis of Rimbaud and Britten as he swooped and dived yet gave us sensual cantabile lines when needed I felt this to be a quite outstanding performance with Harding and the LSO s strings doing everything just perfectly And yes of course we thought of Colin Davis and all our other departed friends in the final Départ So moving And so to the major work of the evening and Elgar s 2 nd Symphony has never enjoyed the popularity of his 1 st One reason is pretty obvious it doesn t have a main theme of the sort that opens and closes the 1 st Also it doesn t end triumphantly and people were expecting that sort of thing from Elgar No this is the work of an older man perhaps even by now if not disillusioned then chastened and far more experienced and undoubtedly worried by the political situation that would shortly lead to WW1 The second movement is among Elgar s most heartfelt creations but throughout this long important work there are contrasts and conundrums These sometimes rapid changes of mood are important in a performance judging the constant ebbing and flowing becomes the crucial task of the conductor It is the success or failure of this which makes performances stand out Several on record have got it right One may cite Boult Andrew Davis Barbirolli Handley and of course Sir Colin Davis who performed the work memorably with the LSO relatively recently in 2010 Daniel Harding did well tonight very well His was a reading with plenty of vitality but sensitivity too with tempi generally slower than the composer s own This may have had a slightly dislocating effect in the first movement which I must confess to being my least favourite of the symphony anyway but elsewhere I found myself much in sympathy with his reading The slow movement was frequently exquisite the 3rd romped along brilliantly and the strange mysterious last movement flowed as it should and the all important ending was beautifully quiet and uneasy What a shame some clot in the audience felt it necessary to jump in with applause long long before Harding had lowered his baton The silence which Harding obviously sought and should follow music of this intensity and meaning was rudely destroyed I thought the LSO played magnificently We all know this is a splendid orchestra with fine principals but nevertheless performances can vary from excellent to stunning Tonight it was stunning They love playing for Harding as well they should Christopher Gunning August 21 2013 PROM 44 15 h August 2013 Royal Albert Hall London Stravinsky Penderecki Debussy Ravel Arto Noras cello Leonard Elschenbroich cello Daniel Muller Schott cello Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Charles Dutoit conductor Stravinski Fireworks 1908 revised 1909 Krzysztof Penderecki Concerto Grosso 2000 2001 Debussy La Mer 1903 5 Ravel Daphnis et Chloé 1909 12 Suite no 2 The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra plays but one Prom every year and this time it was their artistic director and principal conductor who led the proceedings Charles Dutoit s association with the orchestra goes back some fifty years He is much loved by the players and one could expect extra special results as you will see we were not disappointed Stravinsky s early work was much influenced by his teacher Rimsky Korsakov and in 1908 when the younger composer finished the first score of Fireworks he sent it to his master for approval However it was returned unopened because Rimsky Korsakov had died I am sure he would have approved of it with its dazzling orchestration and abundant wit and nowadays its interest is in its foretastes of The Firebird Petrouchka and Le Chant du Rossignol among other significant early works If the performance tonight felt a little hesitant at first it soon gathered momentum during its brief four minutes and by the end we had glimpses of the virtuosity this orchestra is certainly capable of There was now an irritatingly long break in the programme while the violins trooped off and the stage was rearranged to accommodate the three solo cellists featured in the next work Mostly elegiac was an overheard comment from a member of the audience talking about Penderecki s Concerto Grosso It s a long time since the composer was dubbed an enfant terrible of the avant garde with his Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima Penderecki s style has undergone changes and frequently embraces tonality influences as diverse as Bruckner Shostakovich Brahms and Liszt have been absorbed and the result is his own fusion of 19 th and 20 th Century idioms The Concerto Grosso sets the three cellos against a normal symphony orchestra but the composer wisely uses the orchestra for the most part rather sparingly Each of the three soloists has his own opportunities to rise above the orchestral textures the individual lines being often highly expressive At the outset each cellist plays his own solo and it is only after this that all three play together A similar process is repeated towards the end The piece subdivides into six sections played without a break and it s not all slow even if the mostly elegiac impression is what one is left with There are energetic dance like sections but there is an inevitability about the way their energy dissipates into thoughtful lyricism once more Dutoit has championed this work performing it far and wide and clearly has the measure of it Likewise the soloists were all terrific all three expressing the music with intense passion and commitment The sounds are frequently beautiful but I did feel there could have been a greater variety of texture overall Nevertheless it seemed a faultless performance As chance would have it I was in Eastbourne a couple of days ago where ensconced with his pregnant mistress soon to become his wife in the Grand Hotel Debussy completed La Mer Plenty of sea images were scudding through my mind therefore as the RPO feasted on this iconic impressionist masterpiece Dutoit is never more at home than in this French music his recordings with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal quickly became favourites in the 90 s and are still reckoned to be among the best Tonight he led the RPO through a performance in which every nuance was savoured but never at the expense of the narrative flow Dutoit is particularly alert to the dramatic qualities of the score with constantly flexible tempi and gorgeously detailed colours We heard the most superb pianissimos from the strings sublimely sensitive solos from the woodwind and bursts of ferocity and majesty when needed from the brass and percussion I loved the way momentum was built up in the second movement where one could not help seeing and hearing the waves pounding along and the wind in your face And in the third movement things were as stormy as you could possibly want There may be other more measured and refined ways of doing La Mer but I defy anyone to bring off a more vivid and altogether salty performance for me it was almost like hearing the piece for the first time and I ll not forget the experience in a hurry I can t help feeling a trifle short changed when Ravel s Daphnis et Chloé is performed without the choir Also I love much of music in part one of the ballet too but had to be content with the 2 nd Suite tonight which Ravel himself prepared Fortunately Dutoit s reading had all the same qualities he had brought to La Mer The opening Daybreak scene was beautifully atmospheric with Dutoit emphasising the bird calls perhaps a little more strongly than usual The long melodies were perfectly judged in the strings and the whole section had just enough momentum to avoid sentimentality Glorious Moving on I delighted in John Anderson s oboe solos and then it was the turn of Emer McDonough to enchant us with her ravishing flute solo The final Danse General was taken at a fast lick but it didn t feel rushed until perhaps the very end It was superbly exciting with tremendous rhythmic verve and all in all this was a terrific performance and a fitting end to an unforgettable concert The members of the RPO had played their socks off

    Original URL path: http://www.christopher-gunning.co.uk/blog/#FSContact2 (2016-02-16)
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  • Symphony no 3, Symphony no 4, Concerto for Oboe and String Orchestra » Christopher Gunning
    fuddy duddy composer writing in worn out idioms I suppose I was trying to define a way in which I could write music which communicates directly but is not hopelessly predictable or slave to the various isms which have cropped up over the past fifty years or so For me the breakthrough happened about ten years ago when I was out of work and badly needed something to do I found myself writing a saxophone concerto now recorded by John Harle and then several other pieces Of these I am most fond of the Piano Concerto in it I found the basis of a style of working which had been eluding me to some extent I ve enlarged on that since and my most recent efforts are the 3rd and 4th Symphonies and the Oboe Concerto newly released on the excellent Chandos label The two symphonies are each in single 20 minute movements but they are quite different in tone from one another I hardly dare describe the life events that led to the 3rd My new wife Svitlana had become desperately ill was misdiagnosed in a London hospital and operated on in Kiev Ukraine in early 2005 She then developed peritonitis and was on life support for several days From these two operations Sveta did not recover for two years and her condition deteriorated to the point where we all thought she would pass away at any moment Simultaneously I was diagnosed with a heart condition with pretty dreadful survival rates So I couldn t travel to Kiev and the two of us endured these worrying times in separate countries One of the doctor s recommendations for my condition was to walk as much as feasible I took this seriously and one of the places I loved to visit was Wales and the Brecon Beacons I found the rawness of the mountains beguiling and was particularly attracted to the changing light patterns which pervade the area It is astonishing how the mountains can be hospitable one moment and the next anything but I saw a parallel with certain musical devices the same material changed perhaps radically by reworking the same notes to different effect The result is that In this symphony everything is derived from the opening dissonant chords for several weeks I was obsessed with them And when I was at home I would look at pictures of Pen y Fan and want to be there By the time I came to write symphony no 4 much had changed thankfully for the better I had found a miraculous doctor in Kiev who over the space of a couple of months cured Sveta And my own heart was pumping enthusiastically again So for the most part Symphony no 4 is a far more optimistic affair It even dares to be triumphant And the idiom is much more tonal The Oboe Concerto presents another side of me I suppose it s more conventionally classical on some ways I wrote it

    Original URL path: http://www.christopher-gunning.co.uk/2009/04/27/symphony-no-3-symphony-no-4-concerto-for-oboe-and-string-orchestra/ (2016-02-16)
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  • The RPO impresses with superb performances of Stravinsky, Penderecki, Debussy and Ravel » Christopher Gunning
    most part rather sparingly Each of the three soloists has his own opportunities to rise above the orchestral textures the individual lines being often highly expressive At the outset each cellist plays his own solo and it is only after this that all three play together A similar process is repeated towards the end The piece subdivides into six sections played without a break and it s not all slow even if the mostly elegiac impression is what one is left with There are energetic dance like sections but there is an inevitability about the way their energy dissipates into thoughtful lyricism once more Dutoit has championed this work performing it far and wide and clearly has the measure of it Likewise the soloists were all terrific all three expressing the music with intense passion and commitment The sounds are frequently beautiful but I did feel there could have been a greater variety of texture overall Nevertheless it seemed a faultless performance As chance would have it I was in Eastbourne a couple of days ago where ensconced with his pregnant mistress soon to become his wife in the Grand Hotel Debussy completed La Mer Plenty of sea images were scudding through my mind therefore as the RPO feasted on this iconic impressionist masterpiece Dutoit is never more at home than in this French music his recordings with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal quickly became favourites in the 90 s and are still reckoned to be among the best Tonight he led the RPO through a performance in which every nuance was savoured but never at the expense of the narrative flow Dutoit is particularly alert to the dramatic qualities of the score with constantly flexible tempi and gorgeously detailed colours We heard the most superb pianissimos from the strings sublimely sensitive solos from the woodwind and bursts of ferocity and majesty when needed from the brass and percussion I loved the way momentum was built up in the second movement where one could not help seeing and hearing the waves pounding along and the wind in your face And in the third movement things were as stormy as you could possibly want There may be other more measured and refined ways of doing La Mer but I defy anyone to bring off a more vivid and altogether salty performance for me it was almost like hearing the piece for the first time and I ll not forget the experience in a hurry I can t help feeling a trifle short changed when Ravel s Daphnis et Chloé is performed without the choir Also I love much of music in part one of the ballet too but had to be content with the 2 nd Suite tonight which Ravel himself prepared Fortunately Dutoit s reading had all the same qualities he had brought to La Mer The opening Daybreak scene was beautifully atmospheric with Dutoit emphasising the bird calls perhaps a little more strongly than usual The long melodies were

    Original URL path: http://www.christopher-gunning.co.uk/2013/08/16/the-rpo-impresses-with-superb-performances-of-stravinsky-penderecki-debussy-and-ravel-2/ (2016-02-16)
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  • Jonathan Harvey’s Weltethos reaches London » Christopher Gunning
    appeal to him And the result is a work which is frequently inspired and periodically extraordinarily beautiful The forces are large and include eight percussionists spread out behind the orchestra with just about every instrument imaginable For the most part Harvey uses his orchestra sensitively and colouristically although there are passages of considerable force in the music too Harvey s ear is acute and there are constantly well judged textures and effects to marvel at The orchestral influences are many and varied Western contemporary music of course mingled with sounds reminiscent of the Middle and Far East but electronics present in many of Harvey s works are absent Nevertheless some electronic thinking spills over in his use of eerie clusters and the way he uses the organ The choral writing is impressive The choir is called upon not only to sing but to whisper shout and produce other non standard sounds and the children s choir completes each of the six sections except the last the idea being that the children represent the future while the main choir represents the present and past But there are problems It was explained before the concert that there was no printed text as such but a précis of the main ideas This was because Harvey has dismembered the words often breaking them down into syllables Consequently it was quite impossible to hear words sung by the chorus and this had a distancing effect for me The texts given to Samuel West to speak were of course plainly audible and superbly delivered but quite desperately pedantic And the texts given to the children are also decidedly wooden Children have a future if we give up hatred and violence Really You don t say In the end the pretentiousness of the fundamental idea proved too much to take which is a dreadful shame because so much of the music is masterly On one level why do we fight when all religions have so much in common has obvious appeal and on another it is merely a superficial statement of breathtaking naivety Leaving all that aside I would happily sit through another performance simply to revel in the orchestral and choral ideas the clever use of a single note repeated quaver pattern starting on a single oboe and migrating around the orchestra the sudden explosion of the choir in the 2 nd movement the Messaien like textures of the third movement with it s big orchestral climax and moans from the choir the multiple glissandi in the 4 th movement the soft organ clusters in the 5 th and the almighty climax in the 6 th dissonant yet glorious The performance was terrific from choirs and orchestra I don t suppose anyone could fault a thing And make no mistake this is a difficult work to perform it s complex stuff demanding enormous precision from all concerned The principal conductor Edward Gardner the sub conductor Michael Seal and Simon Halsey who trained the choirs are to

    Original URL path: http://www.christopher-gunning.co.uk/2012/10/08/jonathan-harveys-weltethos-reaches-london/ (2016-02-16)
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