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Concertos Pour Piano N°1 Et N°2
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Who was Erik Chisholm? A fascinating musical polymath: composer, conductor and performer, and collector of folk music from his native Scotland. Born in Glasgow in 1904, his attitude to music was progressive, looking towards central European modernism (he was dubbed 'MacBartok'). Chisholm's understanding and mastery of the piano he performed the Scottish premieres of Rachmaninov's Third and Bartok's First Concertos is evident in his two concertos. The first, 'Piobaireachd', literally 'pipe music' that of the classical Highland bagpipes uses these sinuous traditional themes to thrilling effect in a work that's both exotic and lyrical; the 'Hindustani' concerto was inspired by Chisholm's posting to the Far East during the Second World War and friendship with Sorabji, and is based upon a series of ragas. Hyperion rising star Danny Driver is the scintillating soloist alongside the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Rory Macdonald in these captivatingly original works.
Erik Chisholm (1904-65) was a remarkable Scotsman, an accomplished composer, pianist and organist who conducted the British premieres of Mozart's Idomeneo and Berlioz's The Trojans in Glasgow and brought Hindemith, Szymanowski and Bartók to the city (Bartók took home a bagpipe chanter). "McBartok", as Chisholm became known, based his first piano concerto on the classical music of the pipes, and highly attractive it is, too; full of provocative rhythm and utterly devoid of cliche. His second is even more elaborate, drawing its inspiration from the beguiling ragas of Hindustan, their evocative intervals and sensuous, twisting melodies handled beautifully here by Danny Driver in this premiere recording. CLASSICAL CD OF THE WEEK --Observer,04/03/12
...all in all this disc has to be counted one of the most important contributions to British recorded music for some considerable time. IRR OUSTANDING --IRR,Apr'12
INTERNATIONAL PIANO CHOICE. Danny Driver copes easily with Chisholm's demanding writing, and Rory Macdonald and the BBC Scottish accompany with evident pride in their step. --International Piano,May/June'12
The Superb Danny Driver gives his all and is partnered to the hilt by the Scottish conductor Rory Macdonald, making his first appearance on record. Hyperion's balance and sound are exemplary. --Gramophone,June'12
Chisholm's Concertos teem with brilliant bravura writing. Revelatory. BBC MUSIC ORCHESTRAL CHOICE Performance ***** Recording ***** --BBC Music Magazine,June'12
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The Piano Concerto No. 1, titled "Piobaireachd" (or "pipe music"), originally dated from 1932 in its first version. Chisholm had revised the concerto by December 1937, and the revised concerto received its first performance in 1938 on a radio broadcast from Edinburgh. The first live performance was from Glasgow in January 1940. In his liner notes, John Purser specifically identifies particular piobaireachd selections as inspiration for melodic material of the first three movements, while the finale takes dance rhythms more than a particular song as the starting point. Perhaps it's little wonder then that a stereotypically "Scottish" feel to the musical atmosphere and harmonies is present in this concerto. IMHO, the concerto tends to be rather reflective in nature and avoids obvious piano pyrotechnics.
Chisholm finished his Piano Concerto No. 2, titled "Hindustani", in 1949, and the concerto received its premiere in November 1949 in Cape Town. Its UK premiere was in 1950 with the BBC Scottish Orchestra. As with the first concerto, with this second concerto, Chisholm took separate Indian ragas as melodic starting points for each of the respective movements. However, again IMHO, in this instance, I didn't necessarily get a sense that the music seemed stereotypically "Indian" in sound as a result. If anything, portions of this second concerto sound rather like Bela Bartok, a curious description because Chisholm apparently received the nickname "MacBartok" in his own lifetime, because of his particular ethnographic interest in Scottish music in the same way that Bartok was interested in Central European folk music.
In both cases, my own impression is that the concerti have a somewhat discursive, almost "shaggy dog" feel about them in their overall form, if the metaphor makes sense. The second concerto strikes me as the more overtly virtuosic in terms of the piano writing. However, continuing with the "MacBartok" metaphor and implicit comparison, my impression is that Chisholm is rather less taut and concise in his writing compared to Bartok. Also, I honestly didn't detect any "big tunes" that one normally expects/wants in a piano concerto.
In this recording, young talent takes center stage, in the form of principal artists Danny Driver (piano) and Rory Macdonald (conductor). Driver dispatches the piano writing fluidly, while Macdonald provides solid orchestral support from the podium. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra is its usual stalwart self, as with so many Hyperion recordings of relatively unfamiliar concerti like in the series "The Romantic Piano Concerto".
If you're interested in British (OK, Scottish) concerti off the beaten path, these are worth a listen.