From the Sleevenotes – Magna Carta

Sleevenotes from PFCD184 Magna Carta – The Complete Works for Guitar of John Brunning

This album features John Brunning’s complete works for guitar. At its heart is the world premiere recording of his Concerto Magna Carta, written for Xuefei Yang, and performed with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Clark Rundell. Xuefei is again joined by the RLPO for the Five Romances in new arrangements for guitar and orchestra; and by cellist Johannes Moser for Lacrimosa in a duet for guitar and cello – also premiere recordings for these settings of the material. With her previous album, ‘Sketches of China’, Xuefei brought the traditional music of her homeland to a wider international audience, and this latest release finds her highlighting the musical traditions of the British Isles.

Xuefei Yang: “I first met John many years ago when he interviewed me for a music magazine. It was one of my very first interviews in the UK and I remember it vividly because he asked in-depth questions that demonstrated that he knew the guitar well. In our conversation I discovered that as well as being a radio presenter, he was also a guitarist and composer. I asked him to send me some scores, and discovered that John has a talent for writing beautiful melodies in the great tradition of English pastoral music, and being a guitarist himself, his music feels very natural to play. Over the years I have recorded and performed some of John’s music, and find audiences across the globe, and other musicians, enjoy his music. When he suggested writing a concerto for me, I thought it would create an opportunity to bring together all his works for guitar.

The centrepiece of the album is Concerto Magna Carta, so named because it was completed in 2015, 800 years after the signing of that historic document. The Magna Carta is an iconic British achievement that is recognised around the world, so when John asked me to contribute a cadenza I structured it around well-known folk tunes celebrating music from the these isles dovetailed with melodies from each movement of the Concerto. It’s particularly poignant that one of the folk tunes (Sumer is Icumen in) dates back to the time of the Magna Carta, so the Concerto contains music that would have been familiar to people of that time.”

John Brunning: “I couldn’t be more delighted that Xuefei has recorded my Complete Works for Guitar with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, although for obvious reasons, I prefer to think of it as my complete works for guitar so far!

These pieces were completed between 2007 and 2019, and without consciously seeking to steer clear of the strong Spanish tradition of the classical guitar, I feel there’s something essentially English in all this music. I was so pleased that Fei picked up on this when I asked her to contribute a cadenza to the Concerto, something she has clearly given a great deal of thought to.

The Five Romances all began life differently: I originally only thought of the first and fourth as pieces for guitar, whilst the second & fifth were conceived as motets & the third as a work for strings. However, as I write all my music on the guitar, it was a satisfying process to take them all back to their origins with the addition of complementary string arrangements.

I began writing Lacrimosa as a piece for solo guitar some while ago, and only recently returned to it with the idea of scoring it for guitar and cello; a combination I particularly like. It is an intensely emotional conversation between the two instruments and I’m thrilled that Fei’s friend Johannes Moser was available to join her on this premiere recording.

Finally, I would like to thank John Jewell for being my fellow traveller in creating this music & for his unswerving support & encouragement, without which this & many other projects would not have come to fruition.”

About Xuefei Yang

Xuefei Yang is acclaimed as one of the world’s finest classical guitarists. Hailed as a musical pioneer – her fascinating journey took her from being the first-ever guitarist in China to enter a music school, to becoming the first internationally recognised Chinese guitarist on the world stage – Xuefei is one of the few guitarists whose artistry connects with audiences far beyond the guitar fraternity. Her international success has led her to be invited to play in more than 50 countries at numerous prestigious venues, and she is frequently invited to play with the world’s leading orchestras & artists. Xuefei has made several critically acclaimed recordings for Warner, EMI, Decca and Deutsche Grammophon, spanning a wide range of repertoire. Gramophone Magazine praised Xuefei as one of the leading innovators of her generation for continuing to build the guitar repertoire. Xuefei has been based in UK for over twenty years.

About Clark Rundell

With a repertoire spanning centuries, continents and styles, Clark Rundell has established himself as a champion of music ranging from the 18th century to the current day. He works regularly with orchestras and ensembles including all of the BBC orchestras, Britten Sinfonia, and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and has recently given the premiere performances of the Wayne Shorter / Esperanza Spalding opera in Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and the Kennedy Centre, Washington DC. Clark Rundell spent much of his childhood in Bloomington, Minnesota. He studied conducting at Northwestern University, Chicago and was awarded a Junior Fellowship to further his studies at the Royal Northern College of Music, where he is now Professor of Conducting.

About Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

The award-winning Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is the UK’s oldest continuing professional symphony orchestra, with origins dating back to 1840. The Orchestra gives over eighty concerts each season in its home, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, which is more than any other UK orchestra performs in their home city. Over 500,000 people in 92 countries listen to Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra recordings each month on Spotify, more than any UK orchestra outside London.

About John Brunning

John Brunning is an English radio broadcaster, musician and composer. Having taught himself guitar as a young boy, he then enjoyed professional success in several rock bands until his performing career was gradually overtaken by his move into radio broadcasting. However, his love of composition has remained constant and his musical tastes eclectic, which is reflected in his work. Nowadays John writes mostly in the classical idiom. In his own words: “Music and melody will always be indivisible for me, and I’m sure the ‘DNA’ of the multifarious styles I’ve been exposed to over the years continues to influence my compositions.”

About Johannes Moser

German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser has performed with the world’s leading orchestras and works regularly with conductors of the highest level. His recordings include the concertos by Dvořák, Lalo, Elgar, Lutosławski, Dutilleux and Tchaikovsky, which have gained him the prestigious Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik and the Diapason d’Or. Johannes is renowned for his efforts to expand the reach of the classical genre to all audiences, and his passionate involvement in commissioning new works for his instrument. Born into a musical family in 1979, Johannes began studying the cello at the age of eight and became a student of Professor David Geringas in 1997. He was the top prize winner at the 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition, in addition to being awarded the Special Prize for his interpretation of the Rococo Variations. In 2014 he was awarded with the prestigious Brahms prize. Johannes plays on an Andrea Guarneri Cello from 1694 from a private collection.