With the release in March 2012 of the Hyperion CD 67880, Chisholm’s piano concertos No 1 and 2, there are now fourteen commercially available Chisholm CDs. Three early CDs are no longer distributed; Essentially Scottish 1997 is out of stock but, the ECT can supply Olympia OCD 639 and Songs For a Year and a Day.
The CD Songs for a Year and a Day produced in 2000 by Donald Graham is an interesting collection of songs by Chisholm, Victor Hely-Hutchinson and Thomas Rajna, all composers with connections to the University of Cape Town's College of Music.
Murray McLachlan, one of Scotland's leading concert pianists, has recorded ten CDs of Chisholm's piano music over a ten-year period, the first being released in 1998 under the Olympia label. The long association with Dunelm Records under its energetic devoted director Jim Pattison began in 2001. Jim's remarkable web site long carried reviews and sound snippets of Chisholm's music.
On Jim's retirement in April 2008, the Music for Piano series was transferred to Divine Arts Records, directed by Stephen Sutton. Stephen launched the series with a bang, re-releasing Vol. 1 - 4 in November 2008. Click here to read more Vol. 5 was released in April 2009; Vol. 6 was in July 2010 and Vol. 7 released in July 2011.
Dutton Epoch has recently produced two CDs with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under conductor Martin Yates. The first in 2007 contains Chisholm's Symphony No. 2 . Trevor Hold's 'The Unreturning Spring' and Eric Fogg's 'Sea Sheen'.
The second CD released in 2009 contains Chisholm's Pictures from Dante see new recordings for details.
Erik Chisholm Records released it's first CD ECT 2010.1.,The Forsaken Mermaid The Hoodie Craw in August 2010, to coincide with the Margaret Morris Movement Centenary celebration.
The CD got off to a grand start rating 4 stars from Ken Walton in the Scotsman, CD of the week from Norman Lebrecht, inclusion in Gramophone Top 20 CDs in first week of its release and the IRR 'outstanding award'. Many Reviews have followed, 15 at the last count. Too many to set out here so a selection follows, beginning with the 4 IRR highlighted reviews and ending with the most recent, a superb review from Charlotte Gardner 2012-04-30 of the BBC.
Chisholm’s Scottish Airs for Children – 22 adaptations of originals from Patrick MacDonald’s A Collection of Highland Vocal Airs (1784) – provide an ideal teaching resource, unite Scotland’s present with its past and, not least, bring us a sequence of scintillating, exquisite miniatures. If McLachlan’s proposed survey of Chisholm’s complete piano music continues to reveal works of this standard, the history of British piano music will require radical reassessment.
It is now clear that Chisholm...holds a highly significant position in the development of Scottish music in the first half of the twentieth century. Most of the melodies heard here come from just two sources (see the track list). The sheer attractiveness and inventiveness of all of this music is beyond question. This is turning out to be a very exciting series. So: excellent pianism, very acceptable recording, fascinating music.
The disc reveals on eclectic mix of mature works based on Scottish pibrochs, one large scale early sonata and 2 sonatinas based on 16th century music. Every work shows Chisholm as a resourceful surprising and vital; he was indeed a considerable force as a composer and whatever style he turns his fertile imagination to, he produces music that can change and move.
This has been received for review alongside re-issues of the earlier volumes, now all coming out on Divine Art (Dunelm Series). My regard for Chisholm grows with each new recording of his music. Every piece is strongly characterised and his musical language(s) are widely derived and have a feeling of original thinking.
Volume six in this series has one especially important collection, Night Songs of the Bards – Six Nocturnes and a series of engaging though lesser works that still repay listening. Written between 1944 and 1951 Night Songs of the Bards embraces a wide range of rhythmic, textual and colouristic influences - Raga, Szymanowski and Sorabji among them.
Stephen Sutton, DIvine Art Director says of it; “This is the final disc in this acclaimed series of the unique piano music of Erik Chisholm, dubbed 'The Scottish Bartok' for his amazingly individual use of traditional melodies form his homeland, particularly the pibroch or piobaireachd, ancient bagpipe airs. An essential exploration for lovers of modern piano music, the first four volumes were called 'one of the musical discoveries and revelations of the 21st century' (Music Web).
Jeffrey Davis gave the CD a 5 star review saying "Don't miss this one", online at Amazon.co.uk. Later he says "Pictures from Dante" plunges us headlong into the nightmare world of Dante's 'Inferno'. The despairing and catastrophic opening of the work is wonderfully intimidating. The work offers the contrast of its very moving second section 'Paradiso' where a noble theme leads us into a most poetic movement.
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.
(This CD) places one of Chisholm’s greatest works, his Sonata in A (‘An Rioban Dearg’) in context with music of composers who were closely associated with him. It is this piece that, for me, is the central piece of a very eclectic disc. Those who were present at the live concert were astonished at the range of imagination and originality of this work: there is nothing else like it in the repertoire. One can only marvel at McLachlan’s assured grasp of this large structure. Tempos are well-judged, with no hint of dragging, and the elegiac slow movement builds to a climax of strength and pathos.
This taster of idiosynchratic Celticism to the love poems of his widow Lillias (herself the daughter of Francis George Scott) are immediately attractive and simple enough with touches of unusual beauty. Lillias’ Love Poems’ have moments of evocative imagery-in “Skreigh of Day’ where great ‘Cruachan decks her head wi dawning licht’ and here, and elsewhere the Scots accent baffles the soprano.
The Concerto is a gorgeous work twisted from the silk and hemp of Bartók, Ravel and Szymanowski and the roughened cloth of the Scottish Highlands. Praise be that this is no tartan travesty. Chisholm delves as deep as Bartók, Novak, Karlowicz and Szymanowski into their own glimmering hills and massy heights.
The major work here is undoubtedly the final Six Nocturnes (1944-51) - conceived as an entity and imaginatively entitled ‘Night Song of the Bards’, with each ‘episode’ forming into a kind of mystical and abbreviated 1001 Nights - tales of high drama, the opening movement recalling the demonic Bax of the 2nd Piano Sonata, and contrasting with delicate filigree passages in the third. The whole set is an impressionist multi-movement tone poem of dark cumulative power that fades into the mists of the final Epilogue.
Erik Chisholm may be the least known, even to those Scots who will be aware of his achievements in Glasgow of the 1930s when he fed the good citizens with the then new music of Medtner, Bartók and Sorabji! But here, in a brief Harris Dance Tune, the accent is certainly on the more ‘highland’ aspects of Gaelic melody, the clashing harmonies cloaking the melody with splashes of Peploe-like colour.