Chisholm Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

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COMPOSERS: Chisholm
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Chisholm
WORKS: Piano Concertos 1&2
PERFORMER: Danny Driver
CATALOGUE NO: CDA67880

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Fascinating – two major British piano concertos that have nothing to do with the British musical mainstream. The music of the radical and visionary Scot, Erik Chisholm (1904-1965), has languished in obscurity for roughly 50 years, but has begun to emerge courtesy of the record labels Dunelm and Dutton.

Hyperion’s first Chisholm CD features the bold Danny Driver in two major works. The First Concerto, Pìobaireachd (1932 rev. 1937), receives its first fully professional disc recording (Dunelm released a semi-amateur performance with Murray McLachlan). Chisholm gave the UK premiere of Bartók’s First Concerto, and though the influence of his Hungarian friend is patent, it’s applied to material derived from the lore of the Highland bagpipe, taking the percussive piano style to an entirely individual synthesis.

The parallels between the elaborate variation forms of Pibroch and those of Classical Indian music (and his friendship with the composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji) inspired Chisholm in the Hindustani Concerto (1949), each of whose movements is based on a different rãga. Receiving its premiere recording, this is an even more original work than Piano Concerto No. 1 (and makes a fascinating comparison to John Foulds’s Dynamic Triptych). Chisholm was himself a formidable pianist, and both Concertos teem with the kind of brilliant bravura keyboard writing that is meat and drink to Driver. The orchestration is colourfully obstreperous, but conductor Rory Macdonald has it well in hand. Revelatory.

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Calum MacDonald