Notes and Editorial Reviews
R E V I E W S:
“We have much to learn about Chisholm and can be thankful that Dunelm [now Diverisons] have paid him some attention. There are three works on this generously packed CD. The... Straloch Suite is often gracious... touchingly done. [The] Sonata is deeply impressive, clangorous with skirling majesty, abjuring tartan nonsense and staying in touch with the expressive autochthonous roots of the highland culture - dangerous, harsh-edged and sheerly beautiful.”
-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb Interational
“I can hardly imagine anyone wanting just a single volume of this collection of piano music; this is possibly one of the most important single contributions to British piano music alongside that of
Bax, Ireland, Sorabji, Hoddinott and Cyril Scott.. [The Sonata] is an undoubted masterpiece. Murray McLachlan has made an important contribution to the literature of British piano music. Moreover, McLachlan has been well served by the fine recording.. the learned programme notes are a joy to read. I look forward to hearing the subsequent Cds in this eye-opening cycle with great anticipation and enthusiasm. It is one of the musical discoveries and revelations of the twenty-first century.
-- John France, MusicWeb International (joint review of volumes 1-4)
"[The disc] is given a dramatic start by the dark, almost scowling gestures that open the Grave of the Straloch Suite of 1933 (all the pieces on the first disc precede his arrival in Cape Town). And yet this music is drawn from one of the oldest of Scottish lute manuscripts. Chisholm’s cheeky contrapuntalist workings of the tune Ostende in the first movement (framed by those scowling gestures) is pure delight. The second movement is by far the longest (around double the length of each of its companions) and takes three contrasting tines from the same manuscript. John Purser’s ever-perceptive notes make parallels with the piano-writing of late Brahms here, in particular op. 117, and the parallel is indeed easy to hear in the more delicate, ruminative passages. McLachlan is supremely sensitive to the smooth flow of this music, just as he is unafraid of the Bartókian stompings of the finale.
The Scottish Airs for Children were all drawn from Patrick MacDonald’s A Collection of Highland Airs, published in 1784. Again, the idea of simple settings of short folk pieces recalls the Bartók of Mikrokosmos, especially when one considers they are of increasing difficulty and that the work is dedicated to the composer’s three daughters. Written in the 1940s, these are movements of heightened fragility. McLachlan reveals myriad touches to illuminate the twists and turns of Chisholm’s highly effective settings, which, while respecting the originals, nevertheless remain true to the composer’s creative language. The booklet notes identify the original tunes and make informed and pertinent comments on each piece. The final piece on Volume 1 is the 1939 Sonata in A, “The Red Ribbon.” Here McLachlan presents the premiere recording of the abridged version. The Sonata is based on the piobaireachd of its title, “An Riobain Dearg,” a rarely played tune that here receives a searching, prolonged examination. The Sonata was premiered in Cape Town in 1939, but then lay in obscurity in the Cape Town archives until the composer’s daughter rediscovered it. The present recording is of the abridged version by McLachlan prepared after his Wigmore Hall (London) performance in 2004. Cuts are mainly applied to the finale, although each movement loses something. The first movement is a set of explorative and demanding variations before the extrovert Scherzo, based on “The Prince’s Salute.” The bagpipe influence is clearly discernible, while the slow movement is a lament on the tragedy of the submarine Thetis, which sank in June 1939 with only four survivors (out of 103 aboard). There is fantasy married to searching expression as well as a real feeling of a cry in music as the piece approaches its climax; the finale wears its Scottish origins on its sleeve, its exuberance in marked contrast to the preceding lament."
-- Colin Clarke, Fanfare
Works on This Recording
Straloch Suite by Erik Chisholm
Murray McLachlan (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Featured Sound Samples
Piano Sonata in A "An Riobain Dearg": II. Scherzo: Allegretto con moto
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