Erik Chisholm: Songs for a Year and a Day
Catalogue Number: CDGSE1572
Label: GSE Claremont Records
Brad Liebl (baritone), Aviva Pelham (soprano), Thomas Rajna (piano)
includes Love's Reward - Johnnie Logie - Skreigh O'Day - Fragment - Prayer - The White Blood of Innocence - Hert's Sang - Sixty Cubic Feet - The Chailleach - Ossian's Soliloquy - I Arose One Morning Early
The centenary of Erik Chisholm - composer, conductor, pianist, teacher, writer, humanitarian - begins on the 4th January 2004, one hundred years to the day of his birth in Glasgow. His music took many forms - instrumental and orchestral, opera and ballet - and will be heard throughout 2004 in celebration of his remarkable life.
The Scottish years saw him displaying exceptional musical skills, a gift for composition manifest in his early teens. The music was both 'daring and original' (Sir Hugh Roberton) with a strong Scottish character as shown in works such as his Pibroch Piano Concerto (1930), the Straloch Suite for Orchestra (1933) and the Sonata 'An Riobhan Dearg' (1939). Appointed conductor of the Glasgow Grand Opera Society (1932) a creative partnership was begun leading to first British performances of outstanding operas including Mozart's Idomeneo and Berlioz's The Trojans. In 1928 he founded the Scottish Ballet Society, (later The Celtic Ballet) and with the choreographer Margaret Morris created several ballets, most famously, perhaps The Forsaken Mermaid. Another major achievement was the foundation of the Active Society for the Propagation of Contemporary Music (1930-1940) for which he brought leading composers Bartok, Hindemith, Sorabji, Szymanowski, to name a few, to Glasgow to perform their work.
In World War II he became Director of Music, East Asiatic Command, with ENSA, bringing music to the troops in India and Singapore. He created a truly cosmopolitan orchestra, giving about 50 concerts in Malaya within a bare few months. Chisholm's time in the east influenced his musical style: Hindustani works include the 2nd Piano Concerto, a Violin Concerto (UK premiere Edinburgh Festival in 1953) and the Concerto for Orchestra.
Going to South Africa gave free reign to his teaching and organisational skills and his gift for inspiring others to make music. He worked impossibly long hours, had few breaks, slept badly but still managed major compositions including six of the twelve operas he wrote in all. He established the University of Cape Town Opera Company in 1951 and the Opera School in 1954. He enjoyed the recognition of a six-week run of his Murder in Three Keys in New York in 1954 and a BBC TV performance of his Before Breakfast. He wrote outstandingly well on many topics. His literary magnum opus The Operas of Leos Janacek was completed just a few weeks before his sudden death from heart failure.
Nearly forty years have passed since Chisholm's muse was silenced but a revival is underway. Activities planned for his Centenary Year are to see his work take its rightful place in the world of music.
© Erik Chisholm Trust, 2003
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View profile of Erik Chisholm
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