horizontal line

Like Bartók in Hungary, the Scottish composer Erik Chisholm (1904-65) aimed to tap into folk sources to enrich Scotland’s art music. Perhaps the largest solo work in which he worked out these ideas was the piano sonata ‘An Riobhan Dearg’ (1939), which has been recorded by Murray McLachlan (Divine Art).

In his two piano concertos, Chisholm was working on an altogether larger scale. No 1 is inspired by pìobaireachd, the classical music of the Scots bagpipe, and No 2 by Indian music – in 1945 he was named director of ENSA in India and found that the music of that country ‘gripped me from the first moment’.

The Bartókian First Concerto is cast in an opening Molto moderato, a Scherzo, a Nocturne and a Reel. The Second, looser and freer in form, opens with a night raga, a type of Hindustani song, unfolding at its own pace; a set of variations and a whirling Rondo complete it.

Celtic and Indian music are both decorative, additive; both cultures transform their material by embellishment – the sonata form conflict-based structures of the western tradition are alien to their nature. Wisely, Chisholm doesn’t attempt to square the circle; in both works, soloist and orchestra either pass the parcel or the piano offers a running commentary on activity in the orchestra. The result is unavoidably discursive, but both works offer beauty and excitement en route.

Danny Driver, one of Hyperion’s rising stars, copes easily with Chisholm’s demanding writing, and Rory MacDonald and the BBC Scottish accompany with evident pride in their step. The lucid notes are by John Purser, author of an excellent study of Chisholm (Boydell).

MARTIN ANDERSON Read the full review on Agora Classica

   Read full review   

To continue reading, please upgrade to a premium account. You will have immediate full access.

Read more classical music reviews online here:

Piano International, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing