Erik Chisholm Songs: Strong and sensitive performances

The Scottish composer’s music displays a spicy spirit; the best of it is jocular in tone

Erik Chisholm Songs
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Artist: Mhairi Lawson, Nicky Spence, Michael Mofidian, Iain Burnside
Genre: Classical
Label: Delphian

Scottish composer Erik Chisholm (1904-65) has been called a human dynamo. In his twenties he founded the Active Society for the Propagation of Contemporary Music, which over 10 years gave more than 200 first British performances. He also became conductor of the Glasgow Grand Opera Society (which gave the first British productions of Mozart’s Idomeneo and Berlioz’s The Trojans) and, briefly, the Carl Rosa Opera Company.

He formed orchestras in India and Singapore, and from 1946 was professor of music and director of the South African College of Music in Cape Town. His own operas include Canterbury Tales (in middle English), The Importance of Being Earnest, and the intriguingly titled Murder in Three Keys; his pioneering book on the operas of Janacek was published posthumously in 1971.

The 36 songs collected here in strong and sensitive performances play for just 68 minutes. They are eclectically characterful musical slivers, many of them are indebted to Scottish traditional music, all are imbued with an independent, sometimes musically spicy spirit and the best are jocular in tone. The most strongly represented poet is William Soutar. The booklet includes full texts and an introduction by fellow Scottish composer John Purser.

Michael Dervan

Michael Dervan

Michael Dervan is a music critic and Irish Times contributor