Christopher Bunting

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Christopher Bunting

Christopher Bunting (August 8, 1924 - July 28, 2005) was an internationally renowned English cellist. He was the elder son of Sheldon Bunting MBE. He was born in London on 8.8.1924. He was educated at Westminster School. He received an MBE in 2000, making him and Arthur Hugh Bunting the third generation of his family to be honoured. His three marriages ended in divorce. He died in London on 28.7.2005.

Christopher was best known as one of the most talented of British cellists, but he was also an accomplished pianist, teacher, composer and conductor, with an international reputation. From early childhood, Christopher and his brother would sit at the piano imitating the style of various composers. At five, Christopher began piano lessons at the Hampstead Conservatory of Music. A year later he began learning the ‘cello and presently studied with Ivor James. However, he never abandoned the piano; much later, when already established as a celebrated solo ‘cellist, he made a recording for the BBC of the Brahms E minor sonata, playing both parts himself.

During the Second World War, Christopher served in the Air Training Corps and the Home Guard, later becoming celebrated for his ability to identify a plane immediately, even by sound. He was subsequently called up to serve in the Royal Norfolk Regiment and also spent some time entertaining the troops with the Stars in Battledress unit. After war service Christopher took a degree in music at Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1947 under the musicologist Thurston Dart. He then studied with Maurice Eisenberg in the United States. His début recital with the pianist Gerald Moore at the Wigmore Hall in 1952 was an outstanding success. He was awarded a scholarship to study for the best part of a year with the great Pablo Casals in Prades. On his return from France in 1953, Christopher gave duo recitals with distinguished pianists including Peter Wallfisch and Yonty Solomon, and formed a trio with William Glock and Olive Zorian. He premiered the Gerald Finzi Cello Concerto with the Hallé Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli at the Cheltenham Festival in 1955, and the Rawsthorne Cello Concerto with the Philharmonia under Sir Malcolm Sargent at the Proms in 1966. He gave the British premiere of Hans Werner Henze's Ode to the West Wind in 1957, and many broadcasts.

Christopher published pieces for solo ‘cello and arrangements for string orchestra. His Concerto for Cello and Strings (1989) received its first performance with the composer as soloist with the Morley Chamber Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Leonard in the Inigo Jones St Paul's, Covent Garden. Christopher is known for his many publications of studies and exercises, the most significant being the two volumes of Essay on the Craft of Cello Playing (1982). He earned a reputation as a very fine teacher who had the rare gift of being able to adjust to pupils of all ages and varied ability. He taught for six years at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey from its inception in 1963. He was a professor of ‘cello at the Royal College of Music for many years and conducted an advanced class at the Youth Music Centre in north London. For many years he conducted the string orchestra of the Youth Music Centre. He was also associated with Pro Corda, the summer school in Suffolk for young musicians.

In 1994, Christopher's performing career came to an end when he suffered what the doctors thought was a virus affecting the spine, although his condition was never satisfactorily diagnosed, and he spent the last 10 years in a wheelchair. Christopher continued to teach and kept in touch with his friends and colleagues. His brilliant intellect was never affected and he retained his dry sense of humour to the end. As a man he was kind and generous. He could always be relied upon to give advice and, although he was sometimes blunt with his suggestions, they invariably turned out to be the right ones.