ERIK CHISHOLM (1904-1965): Simoon.
Catalogue Number: 12S053
Description: Chisholm's opera is based on a chilling psychological drama by Strindberg, characteristically based on the psychic disintegration of a principal character. Set in Algeria in the 1880s against the backdrop of the violent desert wind that "makes the brains of the white people dry as dates, so that they have horrible visions which disgust them with life ..." a Muslim woman vows revenge on a French legionnaire implicated in the murder of an Arab guide. She torments him into madness and death by convincing him of the futility and betrayal of his religion, his marriage, his son and his own life. Having lived and worked in India and South Africa, Chisholm was familiar with the clash of cultures between colonialists and the colonized, so the tensions implicit in this drama clearly appealed to him and he found cues in Strindberg's text that suggested musical ideas. His score is remarkable for its unusual and evocative coloration, its instrumentation including a wind machine, harmonium and extra percussion; odd scales and pitchless wind machine recur at intervals to symbolise the simoon itself, and at one point subtle preparation of a piano lends a strange otherworldly timbre. Harmonically rich, based on a very free dodecaphony with exotic scales that Chisholm learned in India, the idiom is ideally suited to illustrate the essential alien-ness of the characters and their actions and motivations. Disturbing as the piece is, its very individual brand of expressionism has a potent musical and dramatic thrust that is readily communicated to the listener. Libretto included. Jane Irwin (soprano), Philip Sheffield (tenor), Damian Thantrey (baritone), Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland; Ian Ryan.