Saturday, 18 April 2009

Eric Chisholm: Collected Piano Works

Earlier in the year I enjoyed reviewing the first four volumes of Eric Chisholm’s complete piano music. I began my review by noting that: - “This is an all-or-nothing project. I can hardly imagine anyone wanting just a single CD of this collection of piano music. I know that I am pained at only having four of the projected six volumes of this fascinating but virtually unknown music to review!
If I were to put my cards on the table and give a ‘heads up’ overview of my thoughts on this cycle it would be as follows: this is possibly one of the most important single contributions to British piano music alongside that of Bax, Ireland, Sorabji, Hoddinott and Cyril Scott.
It is fair to say that the ‘unknown-ness’ of this music will mean that it is a very long time before it takes its rightful place in the recognised canons. My prime concern is simply this – I fear that these CDs will not be bought by the general musical public – they are hardly likely to be played on Classic FM, for example. So I guess the buying public will be those who know something of Chisholm’s music - a precious few, I imagine - or those lucky enough to have come under the influence of those ‘precious few’ and have been introduced to this music”.

“In spite of a number of ‘picturesque’ Scottish and Celtic titles to many of these works, Chisholm’s music is no crass ‘tartanry.’ This is not pastiche highlan’ music that is meant to evoke a sentimental view of the land north of the border. And as a Scot I have heard plenty of that kind. Chisholm’s art is obviously influenced by his native musical sounds and rhythms, but the result can only be defined as a part of the Western tradition of both Schoenberg and Bartók. A note on the Chisholm Website explains this well – “He is also alone in his attempt to infuse into symphonic structure the forms of Celtic music-lore (e.g. the pibroch) as distinct from the introduction into present-day forms of merely discursive Celtic atmosphere.”
Listeners should not, but not be over influence by the nickname once given to Chisholm – MacBartok!

Finally it was important to highlight the major impact that the pianist has made on Eric Chisholm’s music: - “It is clear to see that Murray McLachlan had made an important contribution to the literature of British Music. He has decided to make, as Colin Scott-Sutherland notes, Chisholm’s music his own. And that is what was surely needed – a champion of this great catalogue of excellent but virtually unknown music. Moreover, McLachlan has been well served by the fine recording made at Chetham’s School that presents this music with the highest sound quality. Finally the learned programme notes are a joy to read. In fact, they are absolutely necessary, due to the lack of information about and criticism of Chisholm’s music. John Purser certainly gives the listener a fine preview of his up and coming biography. This will surely be a remarkable and important musical study”.

Please read my full review at MusicWeb International
I have not included the usual list of works as it would have made this posting overly long!

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