Symphony No. 2 "Ossian"

Symphony No. 2 "Ossian"

Extract of Review

Dutton here meets the challenge of the belligerent hunter of musical rarities head-on. There are no compromises; no half-measures. You look in vain for a popular filler. Not that this approach is new to Dutton. They are used to the pursuit of gems among the esoteric. Here is a disc which speaks of Dutton’s musicality at its peak. It must have been an expensive project too – involving full orchestra, scores and parts to prepare, solo singers and a booklet including full sung texts and very extensive notes by Lewis Foreman. - by Rob Barnett

Erik Chisholm’s Second Symphony bears the name of the Celtic hero Ossian. He was also the subject of Yeats’ dramatic poem The Wanderings of Usheen – which was the begetter and accelerant for Bax’s life-long absorption into the Gaelic world. Until the recording sessions it was never performed as a symphony although it was quarried for the four-scene ballet The Earth-Shapers which was choreographed by Margaret Morris and did receive performances. Read the whole review.

International Record Review, p30 February 2008

Certainly the Symphony could be viewed as a warlike, combative work. It generally lacks the strong Scottish folk elements and Bartókian stylistic parallels which are found in most of the other Chisholm works so far recorded: perhaps he felt that ancient history required a more universal idiom. If any outside influence is to be felt, it is that nearly universal one on British symphonies of the 1930s (cf. Bax, Walton, Moeran, Dyson et al) - namely Sibelius, certainly an apt model in the circumstances. What of the music? It is inventive to the point of busyness, colourfully, sometimes brashly and occasionally thickly scored, given to touches of gawky fugato or (for example, in the later pages of the first movement) to over-repetitious ostinato. It is rhythmically extremely lively - the Scherzo-Toccata is quite a tour de force and the main Allegro animato section of the finale carries one along with a fine sweep and impetus - and in fact there is not much repose until the finale's elegiac Adagio epilogue, with its lyrically lamenting melodies.

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra seems to throw itself into it with gusto, and Martin Yates directs a genuinely exciting performance which convinces one that the work deserves far better than the complete obscurity which has covered it for nearly 70 years. - Calum MacDonald

American Record Guide; May/June Issue 2008

The Second Symphony was written in 1939 in three movements. It was never performed as such, but the composer later used its themes in a wartime ballet called the Earth Shapers. The score was reconstructed from a manuscript at the University of Cape Town. It is an arresting work based on Celtic themes that reminds me of Sibelius more than anyone else. Each movement has a tremendous sense of underlying power. I think it deserves to be heard at least occasionally in concert halls.