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Scottish composer Erik Chisholm is enjoying a revival thanks particularly to the Trust named after him, which is instrumental in ensuring his music isn’t forgotten, and also in a series of recordings, particularly of his piano music. Simoon (1953) is one of a planned trilogy of one-act operas called ‘Murder in Three Keys’, specifically depicting ‘murder by suggestion’. Set in French occupied Algeria, the opera’s plot has the Arab Biskra frightening the Frenchman Guimard to death using her mystic powers of suggestion and the aid of the Simoon (a hot and sandy Arabian wind). It’s strange and heady stuff, courtesy of Strindberg, whose play Chisholm set verbatim. Chisholm knew Bartók and also worked in India and lived in South Africa, and his music reflects all of these cultural influences, with rich and arresting instrumentation, highly percussive and colourful, that drifts in and out of tonality. It would certainly keep any conductor on their toes, and Ian Ryan leads with confidence (this is a live recording) and ensures that all the textures are teased out. The vocal lines are less interesting, sometimes clumsily setting the text. Jane Irwin sings Biskra with a confident soprano, occasionally chopping her phrases awkwardly, but she throws herself into the fray with gusto, as does baritone Damian Thantry as the unfortunate Guimard.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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