Dunelm’s exploration of Erik Chisholm’s piano music has now reached volume three and its advocate is the tireless Murray McLachlan. As before one finds in Chisholm’s music a progressive absorption of diverse influences to forge a personal response: Gaelic folk music and the influence of Bartók prominent among them.
Piobaireachd is cast in four movements of which the first, The Salute for Clan Ranald, is by a considerable way the longest. This Salute is fully contrastive, ranging from searing outbursts, to more static moments, the whole managing to embrace the folkloric and the contemporary-European with assurance. The second movement also introduces us to the influence of late Debussy on Chisholm – the lapping of the waves is not far away in The Duntroon Pibroch. The final two movements are strongly percussive, a characteristic of which neither composer nor pianist is shy. The clusters of the finale are especially taxing and McLachlan rides them with dramatic authority.
The Sonatinas are, like the Piobaireachd, undated but likely to be early. Contrapuntally eloquent they attest to his formidable powers of intelligence, organisation and control. They’re, as the title suggest, very brief but we have a glimpse of Chisholmian austerity in the Lento of the First Sonatina as well as a hearing of his mastery of fugal procedure in the finale. The Second Sonatina is patterned after a Lute Fantasia of Luis de Milan but the finale comprises seven variations on Guardame las Vacas by Andriques de Valderravano (fl.1640s). This is grand and uplifting music.
The Two Piobaireachd Laments are highly evocative examples of Chisholm’s impressionist traits. The first formed the basis of the second movement of Chisholm’s First Piano Concerto, a work that McLachlan has recorded. Finally we have the big Cornish Dance Sonata, the only work in this selection to be dated with any certainty – 1926. It’s late Romantic in ethos with echoes of Rachmaninoff, though some of the more modernist writing will have upset Chisholm’s piano teacher Leff Pouishnoff – indeed they did upset him – though they seem well integrated in the fabric of the score from this vantage point at least. The second movement is dynamic, colouristic with characteristic percussive attacks. There’s a powerful auburn Lento and then a vibrant, persistent, barbarous finale – Bartók, probably, once more the inspiration, though the fine emergent tune owes all to personal inspiration. McLachlan has already recorded the finale – known as “With clogs on” – on its own but here provides the whole sonata with a driving buoyant platform. It’s a long work, thirty-four minutes in length, and sometimes lacks a sense of concise direction as well as an over-reliance on the percussive. But it’s excitingly done in this performance and rounds out Chisholm’s earlier inspirations very nicely.
“This has got to be one of the coolest things... It’s like having high-quality carol singers round your house. It’s a delightful and atmospheric programme of Christmas music.” (The Chronicle) #Christmas #ChristmasCarols divineartrecords.com…