Chisholm obtained his Doctorate in music under the tuition of Donald Tovey. A fine pianist, Chisholm’s understanding of piano texture and technique is evident in all his piano works, from the simplest to the most virtuosic. He was also an outstanding organist and an innovative conductor and concert promoter. In Glasgow he gave Mozart’s Idomeneo and Berlioz’s The Trojans their British premieres and, amongst others, he brought Hindemith, Casella, Szymanowski, Schmitt, Walton and Bartók to the city. He was dubbed ‘MacBartók’ not because his music could ever be confused with Bartók’s, but because he was pursuing a similar compositional course in his handling of Scottish traditional music as did Bartók with the Central European tradition.
Chisholm had started composing variations on Scottish folk-tunes at the age of six, but it was at the age of ten that he was given a copy of Patrick MacDonald’s A Collection of Scottish Airs published in 1784. So influential was this gift that scarcely a single one of the two-hundred airs remained unarranged by Chisholm in one form or another. Patrick MacDonald was not Chisholm’s only source of Scottish traditional music, and he made use of early Scottish lute manuscripts and many published sources, and had a broad knowledge of pìobaireachd (pipe music), examples of which were published in MacDonald’s collection.
While Chisholm’s primary influence was that of his own native music, he was also greatly influenced by Hindustani music, following his friendship with Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, and a period of service in the Far East during the Second World War. He founded a symphony orchestra in Singapore, and from there went straight to Cape Town, where he was Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Music until his untimely death.
from notes by John Purser © 2012
Alphabetical listing of all musical works
|Piano Concerto No 1 'Pìobaireachd' (Chisholm)|
|Piano Concerto No 2 'Hindustani' (Chisholm)|