Notes and Editorial Reviews
"Eric Chisholm (1904–1965) was a proud Scot who also displayed a marked internationalist bent. He worked as dean and professor at the Faculty of Music in Cape Town, South Africa, and as principal of the South African College of Music, but was born in Glasgow. His musical curiosity was piqued when, at the tender age of 10, he was given a copy of Patrick MacDonald’s A Collection of Scottish Airs (1784). It was a turning point for the young Chisholm. Later, Chisholm was to study with Sir Donald Tovey. His horizons encompassed Hindemith, Casella, Walton, and, importantly, Bartók (Chisholm was to be nicknamed “MacBartók”), while his folk-music interests later also encompassed early Scottish lute manuscripts, the work of
Marjory Kennedy-Fraser and Amy Murray’s Father Allan’s Island. Further, Chisholm was a friend of Sorabji, through whom he absorbed the influence of Hindustani music. A recurring influence on Chisholm was the “piobaireachd,” the classical music of the Highland bagpipes, dating back at least to the 16th century.
The title of Preludes from the True Edge of the Great World (1943) alludes geographically to the Hebrides Islands, and specifically to their wild beauty. And beauty there is aplenty here, perhaps most acutely in No. 5, “Sea Tangle,” an allusion to a ritual during which one rubbed seaweed between one’s hands as one chanted. Most of these pieces seem to have pretensions above and beyond their durations. They last mainly between three and four minutes, and yet speak of far vaster matters. McLachlan’s rendering of “Ossianic Lay” is supremely beautiful and tender. Some are of the utmost simplicity though, such as “Rudha Ban” (White Point, the name of a place on Eriskay). The final piece from this collection, “The Hour of the Slaugh,” emerges as a curious but fascinating mix of Debussy and Bartók. There follows a selection of 26 Airs from the Patrick MacDonald Collection referred to above, heard here in the 1951 revision. Robust, ascerbic work songs rub shoulders with pentatonicism (No. 3) and tunes that honor Bonnie Prince Charlie (No. 4, which seems remarkably Sorabjian). The sheer loneliness of No. 9 (“I am long in solitude”) is as remarkable as it is dark. Even the happier tunes (No. 11, for example) are tempered with the spirit of regret. The final movement, “Prince Albert’s March,” holds some sprightliness, but even here there is a shadow. The Petite Suite actually continues the series just heard, although the second movement, “The Mermaid Song,” is remarkably progressive."
FANFARE: Colin Clarke
Works on This Recording
Petite Suite by Erik Chisholm
Murray McLachlan (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
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