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CD Review

Erik Chisholm

Piano Music

  • Third Sonatina on Four Ricercars
  • Cameos
  • Scottish Airs
  • Sonatine Ecossaise
  • Night Song of the Bards
Murray McLachlan, piano
Olympia OCD639 DDD 75'55
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  • Piano Concerto #1 Piobaireachd (1937)
  • Star Point (1923-7)
  • Sonatinas in G minor (1922) & #4 (1929-40)
  • Élégie #1-4 (1929-40)
  • With cloggs on (undated)
Murray McLachlan, piano
The Kelvin Ensemble/Julian Clayton
Dunelm CD DRD0174 Live recording 71 mins

The Scottish composer Erik Chisholm (1904-1960) spent his latter years in Cape Town, which may explain his relative neglect in UK. He came to my notice through a Centenary Celebration piano recital by Murray McLachlan, who has recorded a great deal of his music. A musical polymath, Chisholm was active in his relatively short life as a composer who drew on diverse cultural influences, besides working as organist, conductor, administrator and writer (he was an authority on Janáček and wrote the first major study of his operas in English).

Of the two CDs of Erik Chisholm's music currently available I would recommend first Murray McLachlan's studio recordings of solo piano music on Olympia. This is well documented by the composer's daughter and by the pianist. Chisholm was a friend of Bartók, and the first to bring him to UK, where he purchased .all the piobaireachd music he could lay his hands on!.Under the influence of his friendship with Bartók, which led to his becoming known as McBartók, Chisholm has demonstrated that Scottish folk-song is as fruitful a source for art music as have been those of Poland and Hungary; Chisholm's Scottish Airs are good equivalents to Bartók's better known Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs; his sonatinas are delightfully inventive, and his early music is always well crafted.

Dunelm's transfers from earlier live recordings of Chisholm's 1st Piano Concerto, and more solo compositions, are also played by Murray McLachlan. With clogs on is a 'wildly rhapsodic, fierceley defiant and delightfully unpredictable' piece intended for a Cornish Suite, the rest of which remains to be discovered, and the Élégies (1929-40) combine Bartókian and Celtic influences. Definitely a composer worth exploring and revaluing at this time.

Chisholm's 35-minute Sonata (1939) which also .fuses Bartókian textures and harmonies with Celtic-inspired melodies, rhythms and colours.will be released by Dunelm soon, in connection with McLachlan's Chisholm Centenary tour of Scotland and Northern England. Definitely a composer worth exploring and revaluing at this time.

Copyright © 2004, Peter Grahame Woolf