CHRISTOPHER GUNNING (b.1944): Piano Sonata, Piano Trio.
Catalogue Number: 04R072
Label: Discovery Music and Vision
Description: The large, very tonal sonata's first movement is based on a wide-spanning theme with an outdoor feel, strangely rreminiscent of one used by Stevenson in his Scottish Triptych. Elsewhere Gunning's harmonic language and taut, economical piano writing recalls Alan Bush, which turns out not to be coincidental (see below). The movement's contrasting material and cogent musical argument bears the imprint of sonata form. The second movement's meandering melody, chordal accompaniment and hushed tranquility are somewhat related to Debussy's ‘Footsteps in the snow', though Gunning's harmonies have a bluesy tinge. The third is a redtlessly scurrying scherzo-toccata with a slow introduction, and the fourth a delicate songlike slow movement, variations on a theme like verses of a sung lullaby. The tempestuous finale combines neo-romantic drama and atmosphere with Prokofiev-like driven passage-work. The four character-pieces that make up the trio are inspired by personal recollections and impressions. The first movement is a meditative, elegantly flowing tribute to Ravel, full of stylistic allusions and almost-quotations. 'Walking with Alan' (Bush) is the work's scherzo. Bush encouraged the young composer with his energetic, dogmatic discourse, which is recalled in this brisk, incisive no-nonsense music. 'Faded Photographs' is the emotional heart of the work, a series of episodes of widely varying character based on the composer's personal memories, tinged with melancholy. The witty, mock-dramatic finale is an energetic dispute between a solid but jazz-tinged 'English' theme and a passionate eastern-European inflected one; an argument between the composer and his Ukrainian wife! Diana Brekalo (piano), The London Piano Trio.