Compositions

Keyboard Works

You can download the Erik Chisholm Trusts pdf version of the Erik Chisholm Catalogue of Piano Works here, which lists the price of each score and has numerous notes through out about many of the scores.

A Prolific Composer for Piano

Chisholm was a first rate pianist, a concert pianist for two years in Canada, and had a great love and understanding of the instrument. He composed many major works for the piano. His greatest works for piano, his two piano concertos The Piobaireachd and The Hindustani, are inspirational examples of the Scottish and Eastern influences in his music (see section on Orchestral Works). His Sonata in A: An Riobain Dearg- The Red Robin was given its first hearing recently at the Wigmore Hall after a 60-year silence. Like many of his compositions, it sings of the Highlands; it is a mammoth work, technically most demanding. Night Song of the Bards, six nocturnes is another such work. These contrast strikingly with a simplicity of works such as his Scottish Airs: his Easy Pieces (graded) may be happily undertaken by children.

Taken from Unsung Heroes, by Murray McLaclan, 2003

To read more click here Unsung Heroes.

The Piano Music of Erik Chisholm 1904 - 1965 by John Purser

John Purser examines the pianistic output of Scottish composer Erik Chisholm.

If there is one word that can be applied to Chisholm’s considerable output of piano music, it is ‘energy’. Even at its most sensual (and it can be very sensual), Chisholm’s music is always moving forward; and his rhythmic energy, often derived from Scottish dance forms, can be almost manic (Example 1). But the variety of his idiom is too great to summarise, and can only be hinted at here. There are the ‘E Praeterita’ Sonatinas, with their graceful homage to the 16th-century sources; the Straloch Suite, based on early 17th-century Scottish lute tunes; the subtle miniature Cameos, each of which leads us into a different world of sound. And then there is the dark virtuosity of the Nocturnes – Night Song of the Bards, which has been acknowledged by more than one reviewer as a masterpiece. Danny Driver, who is the soloist in Hyperion’s new release of the Chisholm piano concertos, writes: ‘It is clear from Chisholm’s piano writing that he knew the instrument intimately and that he himself possessed considerable pianistic abilities.’ see Articles for more information.

Arrangements for 2 Pianos

Ballet Scores

As a result of a close partnership between Chisholm and the choreographer and dancer Margaret Morris several ballets were performed in Glasgow by the Celtic Ballet and other companies in the early years of WW2. Funds were limited and orchestral support out of the question so 2 piano arrangements were written for 3 of these:-

  • The Forsaken Mermaid - the best according to John Purser
  • The Earth Shapers
  • The Hoodie Craw

The Forsaken Mermaid CD released in August 2010 by Erik Chisholm Records can now be purchased from the trust. See Recordings.

Organ

It is said that Chisholm was an even better organist than pianist but he composed few pieces for the instrument.

Chisholm's major work for organ Hebrides Organ Symphony has now been typeset and can be purchased from the Erik Chisholm Trust.

Organ Symphony

Title Symphony – from the Hebrides
1 The Sea. Nobilmente
2 The Folk o’ the Bruth. Allegretto
Duration unknown; 462 bars long
Date Purser suggests written when Chisholm was organist at St Matthews Church (1928-1932)
Performance: none documented.

Letter from Mark Spalding on purchasing Chisholm’s Organ Symphony, recently published by the Erik Chisholm Trust.

I've looked at the Organ Symphony score a few times with increasing interest. It is obviously a relatively early piece-the mature Chisholm language not yet having developed- but an ambitious and remarkably individual piece nonetheless especially when compared to British organ music of the period: it certainly deserves a performance.

EC would appear to have been one of the finest organists of his generation in Britain: it's shameful that that he's not remembered accordingly, but hardly surprising seeing he was neither Anglican nor RC. It would be interesting to see his other organ compositions/transcriptions at some point.

One of the main problems for a performer would be to find a suitable instrument. Probably the most suitable instrument near me is that in the Caird Hall in Dundee: it is contemporaneous with the symphony itself (mid 20s) and though little known considered one of the 2 or 3 finest civic organs in the UK.(In fact I have recently been appointed treasurer of the Friends of the Caird Hall Organ).

I increasingly feel I would like to learn what I believe to be the first Scottish organ symphony and a piece which I suspect represents a significant if early evolutionary step for its composer.

20th October 2009.