Christopher Gunning: Symphony No. 5; String Quartet No. 1


There's some wonderful music here! British composer Christopher Gunning, best known for his award-winning film and television scores, has produced a substantial body of music for the concert hall, which includes seven numbered symphonies. This new CD from the Discovery label contains the composer's Fifth Symphony performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with the composer conducting. Also on this generously filled seventy-five minute program is Gunning's String Quartet No. 1 performed by the Juno String Quartet.

Composed in 2009, the Fifth is a substantial work, scored for full orchestra and lasting over fifty minutes. Gunning requires a highly virtuosic orchestra, and the Royal Philharmonic handles even the thorniest passages with aplomb! It's especially impressive when you realize that the first time these musicians performed this symphony was during the two days of recording sessions it took to 'can' the reading. The playing is taut, impassioned and assured, performed with an unmistakable admiration for the music.

While it may be Gunning's superb orchestration which initially leaves the biggest impression, there's plenty of substance here too, rewarding repeated hearings. It's a tightly constructed work, all four movements of which, Gunning reveals in the album notes, are "founded on the same musical material." The music is always fresh and fascinating; interesting and varied sections of development move fluidly with impressive transitions between them.

I try to limit the album samples accompanying E.A. recommendations to under seven or eight minutes, but when there are no single movements falling under that duration, I'm obliged to fade. The sample provided is a substantial portion of the 3rd movement (which alone is worth the price of the CD!). If you want to here more of Christopher Gunning's concert music, you can find his First Symphony on Albany Records and his Third and Fourth on Chandos. Two earlier Discovery CDs contain several concertos and music from the television series Poirot. Discovery indeed, this is music that deserves to be heard!

This YouTube post by Discovery Recordings provides samples of music from both works on the CD