He led a modernist Renaissance in Scotland, premiering Bartók and Hindemith, but his own music has been overlooked.

Erik Chisholm (1904-1965) was the leading Scottish modernist composer and a promoter of modernist music of international significance. He was also a vital force in the revival of operas ranging from his first performances in the British Isles of Bluebeard’s Castle, Les Troyensand Idomeneo, to an astonishing range of productions in South Africa. He was himself a distinguished composer of operas, and the recent issue of his terrifying operatic setting of Strindberg’s Simoonhas provoked an almost stunned response.

Chisholm brought Bartók, Hindemith, Schmitt, Casella, Szymanowski and Walton (amongst others) to Glasgow. A founder of the Celtic Ballet, Chisholm’s compositions convey a knowledge and use of Scottish traditional music that remains unsurpassed. He was the first composer to absorb Celtic idioms into his music in form as well as content, his achievement paralleling that of Bartók in its depth of understanding and its daring.

Erik Chisholm Erik Chisholm (1904-1965)

Not averse to controversy, Chisholm also set about tackling Hindustani music, maintaining its essential homophony could be treated polyphonically. The HindustaniPiano Concerto demonstrates...

This article is available to Limelight subscribers.

Log in to continue reading.

Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism.

Subscribe now