Erik Chisholm's Second Piano Concerto, the 'Hindustani', like the First Concerto "Piobaireachd", breaks entirely new ground in the 20th century piano concerto, both in personality and character. The story of how Chisholm explored the whole world of Indian music during his time there in the early 1940's while on war service, has been excellently described by John Purser, both in the excellent Hyperion booklet note and his biography of Chisholm 'Chasing a Restless Muse' (Boydell and Brewer, 2009). However, some further information on how the final version of the 'Hindustani' Concerto came into being might be of interest.
Chisholm had completed his Second Concerto in 1949. From 1946 he had been appointed as Dean, Professor and Principal of the University of Cape Town School of Music and had got to know well many prominent musicians there, including the South African pianist Adolf Hallis. It was Hallis, who as the dedicatee of the work, gave the world premiere as part of an ISCM concert at Cape Town University on 22nd November 1949 with Erik conducting. It received a broadcast the next day. Hallis and Chisholm then brought the concerto to Glasgow in 1950 for a broadcast premiere with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Chisholm arranged to have this broadcast performance recorded off-air, and a copy survives in the composer's estate. Aside from revealing Hallis as a very fine pianist and interpreter of the work, it also reveals that Chisholm's original version was somewhat longer than the final one, which was eventually published in two-piano score (by Schott's of London) in 1951. This was to create a problem with the orchestral parts - the original ones retained by Schott's had to be heavily marked with cuts to correspond with the new revisions score. Furthermore, as Chisholm did not re-orchestrate the work until 1953, this early recording, despite its somewhat primitive sonic abilities, is of historic importance. The publishers, however, had not resolved the complicated issue of revised orchestral parts when Agnes Walker (for many years an ardent champion of Chisholm, and particularly of this concerto) played the work at the Royal Festival Hall in 1953 with Adrian Boult and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The performance proved disastrous for no reason of the soloist, orchestra or conductor, but entirely because the delivered parts did not correspond with the final score! Whatever the case, Agnes Walker was able to perform the concerto again with the BBC Scottish Orchestra and Erik conducting, on 17th September 1953, by which time the re-orchestration was complete.
Hearing this work on the new Hyperion recording with the superb Danny Driver as soloist and the modern-day BBC Scottish Orchestra, conducted by the young conductor Rory McDonald making his recording debut, is a revelation - such an exotic sound world I have never heard before! Now that we can enjoy and begin to appreciate the intrinsic qualities of both concertos in this recording, hopefully both will begin to make their way in the wider world among talented and enterprising pianists and orchestras.
Michael Jones 2012 - Unpublished