Chisholm: Simoon

Reviewed on Tue 20 Dec, 2016

Erik Chisholm’s Simoon is a fierce piece, laced with menace, packed with drama and bristling with sinewy orchestral muscle. Based on August Strindberg’s 1889 play, its title refers to the violent, hot wind that scalds the North African desert.

Here’s a find. A 20th-century opera not performed since 1954 (in New York), never recorded and deserving of greater attention. Erik Chisholm’s Simoon is a fierce piece, laced with menace, packed with drama and bristling with sinewy orchestral muscle. Based on August Strindberg’s 1889 play, its title refers to the violent, hot wind that scalds the North African desert. Pleasingly, it sounds like Britten on steroids. As it should for a tale of murder and brutal psychological revenge that originally formed the final part of Chisholm’s dark, disturbing trilogy, Murder in Three Keys. Of particular interest is his deft blending of Hindustani scales and free 12-tone technique. The result is simultaneously unsettling and compelling as the compact 50-minute piece moves inexorably towards its macabre denouement. Taken from live concert performances in Glasgow’s Western Baths, Delphian’s sound is excellent, foregrounding Jane Irwin and Damian Thantrey’s superbly sung protagonists and framing rich and characterful playing from Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland.
–Michael Quinn