Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Chisholm & his Friends Murray McLachlan (piano)
CD of the Wigmore Hall Chisholm centenary concert: Dunelm DRD0219 [78 mins]

Out of doors suite (With Drums and Pipes)
Fantasiettina sul nome illustre dell'Egregio poeta Hugh MacDiarmid
Pibroch Sonata (1939)
A Threepenny Sonatina [world premiere]
Fantasia contrappuntistica (Edizione Definitiva, 1910)

After the tour of this recital (see full review) Dunelm Records has released a CD of as many of the items as can be fitted into one CD. The recording quality is excellent and the notes are taken from those for the recital.

I have not seen any of the scores but still wonder whether the Scherzo and Finale of Erik Chisholm's sonata might not be performed less relentlessly and (mostly) loud? The long repetitive patterns do become wearing. I have no reservations about the long molto moderato first movement and the affecting Lament for HMS Thetis.

The 'small' though very demanding pieces by Sorabji and Stevenson are delightful, the latter's take on Weill's Threepenny Opera music ideally placed before the massive Edizione Definitiva of Busoni's great Fantasia Contrappuntistica. Even for those who are not attracted yet by Chisholm, the CD is well worth acquiring for this Busoni performance, which ranges from Bach to Busoni's unique and characteristic idiom with consummate originality and a variety of expressive pianism - the hard won final stretta is a due culmination of McLachlan's engrossing performance.

Of the two CDs of Erik Chisholm's music previously available I would recommend first Murray McLachlan's studio recordings of solo piano music on Olympia OCD 639. This is well documented by the composer's daughter and by the pianist. Under the influence of his friendship with Bartok, which led to his becoming known as McBartok, Chisholm has demonstrated that Scottish folk-song is as fruitful a source for art music as have been those of Poland and Hungary; Chisholm's Scottish Airs are good equivalents to Bartok's better known Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs; his sonatinas are delightfully inventive, and his early music is always well crafted.

Transfers from earlier live recordings of Chisholm's 1st Piano Concerto and more solo compositions, all played by Murray McLachlan, are available from Dunelm. The Elegies (1929-40) combine Bartokian and Celtic influences, and With clogs on is a 'wildly rhapsodic, fierceley defiant and delightfully unpredictable' piece intended for a Cornish Suite, the rest of which remains to be discovered.

Definitely a composer worth exploring and revaluing at this time. Several more CDs of Chisholm to be recorded by Murray McLachlan are promised for future release.

Bach/Busoni Chaconne; Turandots Frauengemach; Sonatina No 6; Fantasia contrappuntistica
Dunelm DRD 0232

A CD related to this Chisholm project has been released by Dunhelm from a Busoni recital in August 2004 at Chetham School's Festival for Pianists. Of interest is the school's new "Seiler 208" piano imported from Germany. As recorded by Jim Pattison it is exceptionally lucid, the clarity greatly advantageous for the complexity of Busoni's Bach-based Fantasia contrappuntistica. I enjoyed this recital, a good conspectus of Busoni's interests and range of styles. I thought the playing was less strenuous and in more complete control than as the climax of McLachlan's marathon Chisholm tribute concert which I attended in London. All the music has links to other composers, and it was serendipitous over the Christmas holidays that my handicapped daughter was thrilled to recognise Greensleeves in the Turandots Frauengemach Elegy, and the Toreador's Song from Carmen in the Sonatina!


Another review:

- - McLachlan commences [the Bach/Busoni chaconne] in a particularly subdued vein, without excessive light and shade. This contemplative mien gradually gives way to greater contrast, finally achieving full depth of expression, making it all the more rewarding.

Turandot's Chamber forms part of his opera Turandot, containing the familiar air Greensleeves . Having completed the opera, his publisher asked for a piano version and Busoni could not resist a new elaboration, rather than opting for a simple transcription, producing a delightfully creative virtuoso piece. The Chamber-Fantasy on Bizet's Carmen is a light and fresh rendition of the familiar themes, revitalised by charming variations, reordered to create a carefree and humorous mood, with the Habanera at the centre. Busoni was working hard on his masterwork Doktor Faust when he took a breather in Paris and rapidly produced this work, which he had planned three years earlier in 1917.

With the Fantasia Contrappuntistica he was back with Bach again, drawing themes from The Art of Fugue. To some this contrapuntal work does not bring together Bach and Busoni in harmony, but he undeniably built with melodic skill on the foundation of Bach's structure. McLachlan brings just the right balance to this work, so that it does not seem excessively constrained by its musical form, nor is he concerned to break a speed record.

Altogether, this CD is rewarding, not simply for the musicianship of Murray McLachan, but also because it brings together a variety of Busoni's variations on the works of others. This was a live performance, without appreciable audience noise. The producer has been kind, confining the applause to a fifth track, so that those of us who abhor this measure of self-congratulation can programme our players to exclude it.

Anthony Barker (November 2006)

ERIK CHISHOLM Music for piano Volume 2

Eight preludes from "Twenty-Four Preludes from the True Edge of the Great World"
Airs from the Patrick MacDonald Collection
(revised 1951)

Murray McLachlan (piano)

Dunelm CD DRD0223: [TT 77 mins]

This new release has given me particular pleasure, and the music is accessible for (fairly advanced) non-professional pianists. The Preludes are 'meditations or improvisations on some aspect of a melody which may only appear in full once in the whole piece' (John Purser). I have received from the Scottish Music Centre a manuscript copy (in the composer's own hand?) of some of them and have verified my impression that they are very pianistic, the figurations lie comfortably under the hands, and they are rewarding to study and play. Likewise the attractive 31 short Airs, which should not be played straight through.

Documentation and commentary by John Purser is impressive, and this series deserves wide dissemination.

© Peter Grahame Woolf