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Chisholm: Music For Piano, Vol. 6 / Murray Mclachlan

Release Date: 10/12/2010 
Label:  Divine Art   Catalog #: 24149   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Erik Chisholm
Performer:  Murray McLachlan
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Those who have been following this series will eagerly wish to acquaint themselves with this release. Start with those Nocturnes.


CHISHOLM Ceol Mor Dances. Dunedin Suite. Scottish Airs. Dance of the Princess Jaschya-Sheena. The Wisdom Book. Nocturnes: Night Song of the Bards Murray McLachlan (pn) DIVINE ART 24149 (77:30)

This, the sixth volume of Murray Read more McLachlan’s Chisholm series, presents varied terrain. The Ceol Mor dances (he orchestrated them in 1943) are more wide-ranging than earlier dance sets in previous volumes. The tunes are handled with imagination but, most of all, affection. The fourth is the most rugged of the set, the forceful trills markedly non-decorative (they buzz with a life all of their own). Bartók perhaps surfaces most noticeably in the fourth movement, while the fifth is the sparsest of texture. The sprightly final dance presents the most challenges to the pianist, and McLachlan triumphs wonderfully.

“Dunedin” is actually the old Gaelic name for Edinburgh, but here it refers to the Dunedin Association, a body whose stated aim was to support Scottish music. The Prelude is actually by far the longest movement and indulges in stretches of relaxed-sounding counterpoint. McLachlan shapes it well, preparing the listener for the ensuing movements. The heavy sadness of the Sarabande leads to a complex Caprice. The modally derived melody of Strathspey, the fourth movement, deliciously melts into misty but more identifiably Scots territory. Counterpoint, this time positively ingenious counterpoint, characterizes the final, playful Gigue.

The Bartókian bite of “A Bhanarcach dhonna a’ chruidh” introduces the nine brief Scottish airs in this volume. McLachlan is particularly impressive in the intimate second movement, whose title translates as “a thousand blessings to the lovely youth.” Tenderness vies with assertiveness interspersed with play (the chirpy “Aisling,” for example) to provide a stimulating experience.

The Dance of the Princess Jaschya-Sheena , an “orientale,” is Chisholm in his gentlest mode, made evocative of the East via its drone bass and modal language. The Wisdom Book is a collection of 11 brief pieces, written for children to play. Delightful and simple, each expires before we can completely make its acquaintance. In complete contrast, the Nocturnes: Night Song of the Bards , a set of six nocturnes composed between 1944 and 1951, poses virtuoso challenges to the performer. John Purser’s excellent notes seek parallels with this work and Sorabji’s Djâmî while also pointing out that Chisholm is the more earthy composer of the two. There is a Lisztian element to the broken octaves of the second bard; the third enters a more Scriabinesque universe. These are sophisticated pieces worthy of more exposure in the concert hall.

Another stimulating volume from McLachlan.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke


Volume six in this series has one especially important collection, Night Songs of the Bards – Six Nocturnes and a series of engaging though lesser works that still repay listening. Written between 1944 and 1951 Night Songs of the Bards embraces a wide range of rhythmic, textual and colouristic influences - Raga, Szymanowski and Sorabji among them. The second Nocturne, the ‘Second Bard’ opens with driving Lisztian declamation before slowly resolving itself to quietude and reflection. A ghostly patina haunts No.3, where the impress of Szymanowski can perhaps be felt at its most explicit, whilst No.5 is limpid and reflective. No.6 represents the Chieftain, and with its steady, measured, harp-like accompaniment, it evokes a determined narrative with huge authority and a gripping narrative sense.
The writing in these six songful Nocturnes marries virtuosity with rhythmic complexity and lyric introspection. They sound complex both to assimilate and play, but unfold in their own good time, powerfully bardic but sufficiently contrast-conscious always to be involving and thematically interesting, indeed exciting. The writing is often tempestuous, often driven, but always intense, whether at fierce tempi or slow ones.
The Ceol Mor Dances, of which there are six, were written in 1943. There’s an imposing pentatonic start, whilst No.2, an Andante moderato, does indeed, as the notes suggest, hint at Satie in the opening bars. The fourth dance has exciting and full textures, whilst the fifth is a brisk, perky little march, and the sixth ends in a splendid flourish. The Dunedin Suite consists of five brief movements that, in their counterpoint, hint at baroque influence, both in nomenclature and ethos. There’s an especially wistful melancholy in the Sarabande whilst the Strathspey dissolves quietly by the end of its run course. The nine Scottish Airs are very brief – all under ninety-two seconds – but richly characterised nonetheless; listen to the powerful Bardic splendour of the sixth, for example, or the fulsome culminatory Jig. The Wisdom Book – eleven pieces lasting four and a half minutes – was written for children and the cheery miniatures sound delightful. Chisholm called Dance of the Princess Jaschya-Sheena his ‘pot-boiler’ but it’s surely better than that and very attractive.
Murray McLachlan, as ever, is the conduit through which Chisholm’s music flows. His technical armoury and ear for colour are both impeccable and he brings these pieces to life with tremendous intensity and panache, or – when necessary, as in the children’s pieces – unpretentious simplicity. With a good recording and booklet notes, those who have been following this series will eagerly wish to acquaint themselves with this release. Start with those Nocturnes.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Ceol Mor Dances by Erik Chisholm
Performer:  Murray McLachlan (Piano)
2. Dunedin Suite by Erik Chisholm
Performer:  Murray McLachlan (Piano)
3. Scottish Airs (9) by Erik Chisholm
Performer:  Murray McLachlan (Piano)
4. Dance of the Princess Jaschya-Sheena by Erik Chisholm
Performer:  Murray McLachlan (Piano)
5. The Wisdom Book by Erik Chisholm
Performer:  Murray McLachlan (Piano)
6. Nocturnes (6) for Piano "Night Song of the Bards" by Erik Chisholm
Performer:  Murray McLachlan (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 

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