Erik Chisholm was a Scotsman who also had important
associations with South Africa and an awareness of the major composers
of the first half of the 20th Century, especially Bartók.
The principal work here is the 1st Piano
Concerto Piobaireachd which, in its revised version, dates from
1937: a recording of a performance in Glasgow in 2000, its first since
around 1940. It is strongly influenced by Scottish bagpipe music, not
least in its long, espansive first movement. The exciting scherzo features
biting brass, and a few lapses of intonation here do remind us that
this is a student orchestra and a ‘live’ performance, but both the beautiful
Adagio and thrusting finale fare well. Murray McLachlan gives a splendid
account of the solo part and the 50-piece Kelvin Ensemble support excellently
The rest of a generously-filled disc is devoted to
early, or earlyish, piano solos by Chisholm recorded by Mr. McLachlan
in South Africa in 1999. These afford fair variety. The G minor Sonatina
(1922), rather long for the "Sonatina" designation (its three
movements take almost 18 minutes), is rhapsodic and sometimes diffuse
but is already well written for the instrument. The other Sonatina is
quite different, very brief and charming and based on fragments of early
Spanish lute music. Star Point explores unusual sonorities which
undoubtedly grow on one; the rugged Elegies show Bartók’s
example applied to the Celtic idiom; With Cloggs On is a substantial
movement, impulsive and again rhapsodic, perhaps inspired by Cornwall,
also Celtic of course like Chisholm’s native Scotland and certainly
brilliantly written for piano.
Mr. McLachlan’s virtuosity and his sympathy with Chisholm
emerges in all these pieces and, all told, the disc satisfyingly expands
our knowledge of the composer, which was previously confined (on CD)
to a 1998 Olympia release and to the recently released South African
Claremont CD which included a selection of his songs alongside those
by Hely-Hutchinson and Thomas Rajna.
The transfers have been excellently managed and, in
general, this is a very recommendable release. We are told that the
record industry is in decline but the enterprise of smaller labels continues
to delight and instruct us. Dunelm is up there with them.
There is talk of Dunelm recording of the Chisholm Piano Concerto, The
You should also note that the CD of
songs by Chisholm, Hely-Hutchinson and Rajna is now also available
at £10 from the Scottish Music Information Centre.