The musical style of Scottish composer Donald Thomson defies the influences of the oscillating world of metamodernism and remains true to its roots as every piece in the Celtic Piano Music collection was inspired by different parts of Scotland and the Scottish Islands.
Celtic Piano Music, newly released by EVC Music, includes four previously published individual piano suites: A Borders Suite, A Hebrides Suite, Scottish Waters and Myths & Legends. In 2018 this series that celebrates the beauty of Scotland, was nominated for the Best Print Publication Award at the MusicExpo in London.
The more upbeat works, such as The Guddly Burn, The Kelpies’ Jig or The Brownie of Ballachulish will sit very comfortably under the fingers but could easily be transcribed for a traditional Scottish Cèilidh - a social gathering with dancing, singing and music-making, keenly translates Thomson, who has studied Gaelic since 2019.
Slower and more poetic works like Innerleithen Air and Melrose Abbey, with their beautiful homophonic or chordal textures could easily become vocal works.
The Fairy Pools is a sparkling depiction of the natural waterfalls and brightly shimmering pools in Glen Brittle on the Isle of Skye. It is a wild and rocky landscape, inhabited by a great variety of native wildlife and, according to legend, fairies. As well as being a musical depiction of this magical landscape, this piece is also a technical study with cascades of shimmering arpeggios above a bass melody. The harmonies are often based on consecutive chords, with unexpected interplay between major and minor tonalities, lending an ethereal and other-wordly sound to the music.
Thomson's love of music came from his mother, a very successful piano teacher, and he eventually studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. He is married to a talented amateur artist and lives near Edinburgh. He has led a successful career in music publishing as an editor for Kevin Mayhew, and now works freelance, engraving scores for numerous major publishers, such as Faber. Thomson recently formed a duo with Edinburgh-based Russian cellist Anna McCann, is the accompanist for the Dalkeith Singers and Southside Choir and works as a piano teacher at a local music school.
And whether it is a book with ‘cheeky wee tunes’ for a Halloween recital for beginners, sophisticated winter piano works for advanced players, or as presented here, his Celtic Piano Music, Thomson's love of the folk music of Scotland infuses his compositional style, inspired by Gaelic songs, fiddle, and pipe tunes, making him a true National Scottish composer who breaks through the layers of the white noise with a quiet but very assuring confidence.