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Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

CD can be ordered through UK phone number: +44 (0)1983 563780 or Dr Morag Chisholm
£10.50 UK  or £11.50 overseas incl.p&p

I have just been informed this disc is now available for £9 from
The Scottish Music Information Centre, 1 Bowmont gardens, Glasgow, G12 9LR 0141 334 6393


Songs by Erik CHISHOLM, Victor HELY-HUTCHINSON and Thomas RAJNA

1. The Owl and the Pussy Cat (Edward Lear) PRS 2'18'
2. The Table and Chair (Edward Lear) P.R.S. 2'15"
3. The Duck and the Kangaroo (Edward Lear) PRS 2'39'
4. The Song of Soldiers (Walter de la Mare) PRS ' 1'54"
5. Mother Hubbard (trad) 2'33"
6 Love's Reward (Lillias Scott) SAMRO " 1'45"
7. Johnnie Logie (Lillias Scott) SAMRO 1'05"
8. Skreigh O'Day (Lillias Scott) SAMRO" 1'58'
9. Fragment (Lillias Scott) sAMRO " 1'36'
10. Prayer (Lillias Scott) SAMRO " 1'13
11. The White Blood of Innocence (Lillias Scott) SAMRO ., 1'49'
12. Hert's Sang (Lillias Scott) sAMRO " 1'52'
Thomas RAJNA
13. Stop all the Clocks (WH Auden) sAMRO "' 4'12"
14. The Composer (WH Auden) SAMRO "' 5'15"
15. Their Lonely Betters (WH Auden) SAMRO "' 3'53"
16. Refugee Blues (WH Auden) SAMRO 5'51'
17. Lavender Ann (unknown) PR.S. 1'51'
18. Dreamland (Christina Rosetti) P.R.S. 2'28"
19. Auld Robin Gray (Lady Anne Barnard) P.R.S. 5'00'
20. Cradle Song (unknown) P.R.S. 1'03'
21. A Birthday (Christina Rosetti) P.R.S. 1'46"
22. Sixty Cubic Feet (Randall SwingIer) MCPS 3'48'
23. The Chailleach (Celtic Folk Song) SAMRO 2'03"
24. Ossian's Soliloquy (Celtic Folk Song) SAMRO 2'38"
25. I Arose one morning early (Celtic Folk Song) SAMRO 1'44"
Brad Liebl (Baritone) Nos. 1-5, 13-16, 22-25, Aviva Pelham (Soprano) Nos. 6-12, 17-21;
homas Rajna (piano)
Recorded by Donald Graham during 2000 at The College of Music, U.C.T., South Africa
from Claremont at P.O. Box 250, Newlands 7725 R.S.A.


This enterprising release brings together works by three composers united by their association with the musical life of Cape Town. Erik Chisholm although born in Glasgow took up a post in 1946 at the University of Cape Town where he remained for the rest of his life. Victor Hely-Hutchinson was the youngest son of the last Governor of the Cape whilst Thomas Rajna has worked as composer and pianist at the university for over 30 years. Chisholm and Hely-Hutchinson are of particular interest to British music lovers.

Chisholm was a tireless advocate of new music as evinced by his formation of The Active Society for the Propagation of Contemporary Music, perhaps modelled on Schoenberg's example; the society for private musical performances. The Scottish composers works are only now beginning to be heard, the disc of piano music played by Murray McLachlan (on Olympia OCD 639) being a revelation. Although some of his works reflect his attraction to Scottish folk forms much of his music displays a cosmopolitan outlook, drawing inspiration from the examples of Bartok and Szymanowski, and also from Indian ragas. His responsiveness to contemporary composers and receptiveness to influences beyond Britain are qualities shared by Havergal Brian whose writings for the magazine Musical Opinion are most wide ranging. In the two groups of Chisholm songs offered here the Scottish element is to the fore. Seven songs are set to Scots poems by Lillias Scott who was the composers second wife. They range from the saucy temptations of Love's Reward to the desolate landscape of Fragment;

'Naethin' is left in the land
But the reek an' the rain o' the years'

Chisholm sets the poems to often folk-like melodies. Whether actual folk tunes are used is not certain. The influence of folk music in the Lillias Scott settings might bare comparison to that contained in the nine Scottish Airs for piano where, as Murray McLachlan has stated in the liner notes in the Olympia CD, Chisholm evokes the spirit of Scottish folk songs and at time seems 'close to literal quotation'. This evocative approach is similar to that used by Villa Lobos whose use of actual Brazilian folk music was quite small, yet whose works are often shot through with folk elements. The accompaniments to these songs show Chisholm's skill in creating often quite elaborate layers of sound, but without ever overwhelming the voice. The second group of Chisholm songs consists of a setting of a poem by Randall Swingler and three songs from the Patrick MacDonald Collection published in 1784. Like much of the poets work, Swingler's Sixty Cubic Feet shows his deep sympathy with the privations suffered by working class Britain;

'In sixty feet of dust and gas
He lay and hacked the coal.'

Chisholm provides declamatory music that is both defiant and sympathetic. There are many subtle twists in the harmony and the false triumphalism adopted by Chisholm at the words;

'They buried him with honour
The bugle blew Retreat,
And now he claims of English earth
Some sixty cubic feet.'

makes for uncomfortable listening. The three folk songs from the MacDonald collection include one called Ossian's Soliloquy but since Ossian was later exposed as an elaborate literary hoax it is difficult to ascertain the folk authenticity of the words or melody. Indeed it is not clear from the notes whether the collection from which the words are taken also included associated melodies. Any readers of Dave Harker's book, Fakesong, will be aware of the pitfalls of making assumptions regarding early sources of Scottish folk music and poetry. However, Chisholm's rendering of whatever this particular source offered him are powerful and dramatic. Once more the accompaniments are interesting in themselves and do not serve as merely functional backgrounds to the melodies. The harmonies of Ossian's Soliloquy are particularly spicy. The rather swaggering complaints of the poet in The Chailleach - My Spiteful Old Woman are marvellous. I Arose One Morning Early has some unusual cadences and a lolloping, eager momentum as if to underline the words;

'Sights new and exciting,
Sounds often surprising.'

Victor Hely-Hutchinson was well known as a conductor mainly in the employ of the B.B.C. His compositions are less familiar and this CD offers a chance to sample his gifts. The three settings of Edward Lear poems may be familiar to listeners. They are charming and melodious and may, as they did with this reviewer, bring back cherished memories of childhood. The Owl and the Pussycat is suitably lyrical while the mock seriousness of The Table and the Chair perfectly portrays the ludicrous escapades of the talking and dancing furniture. The prancing accompaniment of The Duck and the Kangaroo affords further jollity. Hely-Hutchinson is also represented by The Song of Soldiers to words by Walter de la Mere. A march like tread evokes the poets vision of a ghostly army marching over the fen. The mock Handelian Old Mother Hubbard is a shear delight and is reminiscent of similar fun had at the great composers expense by Stanford in his pastiche settings of Lear poems published as Nonsense Rhymes op.365. In Lavender Ann the composer returns to the world of a certain type of childhood with it's fairies and elves. Both this poem and Cradle Song are by anonymous authors, the latter being a simple song with a gently chiming accompaniment. Dreamland is a setting of a poem by Christina Rossetti. Here Hely-Hutchinson calls upon an overtly romantic language that recalls Somervell. The sweeping piano part supports the voices dramatic phrases. Rossetti also provides the words of A Birthday which is conventional in style but not without a certain charm. Auld Robin Grey sets a poem in the style of a Scottish ballad by Lady Anne Barnard. The style here again is more conventional and rather anonymous compared to the Lear settings. All these songs would sit well in a recital especially where light relief is required.

Although Thomas Rajna was born in Budapest in 1928 he does have an some connections with British music as he was appointed Professor of Piano at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1963. He is represented on this CD by four settings of poems by W.H. Auden. Stop all the Clocks receives a large scale and highly dramatic setting. The piano follows the descriptive elements of the poem very closely in the manner of Britten but without seeking to emulate the syntax of that fellow Auden setter. In The Composer, a poem that Auden may have written with Britten in mind, Rajna finds a searching harmonic language with which to probe the poets more abstract train of thought. The piano arabesques that pervade Their Lonely Betters, provide a thread for Auden's thoughts on language and it's meaning. In Refugee Blues, Rajna evokes the spirit of Weill or Eisler in a heartfelt setting of a poem that has fresh resonance today when the current plight of asylum seekers is considered;

'Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year.'

All four songs are big in every way and clearly require the advocacy of committed performers, which they duly receive. They should be a must for any ambitious Baritone/Piano duo.

I recommend this CD to anyone wishing to explore less familiar songs in English or Scots. The performances by Brad Liebl, baritone; Aviva Pelham, soprano and Thomas Rajna, piano are good. The musicians capture the variety of moods and styles offered by the three composers with aplomb. As a compilation it is a good introduction to the vocal works of these composers and will leave the listener desirous of dedicated releases for all three - perhaps the next step for Claremont Records.

David Hackbridge Johnson

Erik Chisholm Website


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