HARTY: An Irish Symphony / With the Wild Geese / In Ireland

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Hamilton Harty(1879-1941)

Orchestral Works

Ireland's major contribution to twentieth century music has been thecontinuing pre-eminence of its traditional music, song and dance, rather thanclassical music. Unless one includes the work of the harper and composerTurloch Carolan (1670-1738), whose unique style drew upon ancient Irishharping, traditional music and song, or the music of contemporary Italiancomposers such as Francesco Geminiani and Arcangelo Corelli, the first majorfigures of Irish classical music were the composer, pianist and creator of thenocturne, John Field, and the composer and singer Michael Balfe. Following onfrom Field and Balfe, the two greatest Irish composers of the late nineteenthand early twentieth centuries were undoubtedly Charles Stanford and HamiltonHarty.

The composer, conductor, pianist and organist Hamilton Harty was born inHillsborough, Co. Down, on 4th December 1879. His first teacher was his father,and he studied the viola, the piano and the rudiments of counterpoint. By theage of twelve he was already organist at Magheragall Church, Co. Antrim, and inNovember 1895 was offered a new post at St Barnabas' Church, Belfast. He waslater to take up a position at Christ Church in Bray, Co. Wicklow, just a fewmiles south of Dublin, and it was while he was based there that he receivedmuch help and encouragement from the Italian composer Michele Esposito, thenProfessor of Piano at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin.

In 1901 Harty resigned as organist at Bray in order to take up a post atAll Saints Church in Norfolk Square, London, although this was to last only aweek after he fell out with the vicar. He was soon to make his mark on theLondon music scene, however, not only as a composer but also as an accompanistof exceptional brilliance. Conducting gradually began to take up more of histime after no less a person than Hans Richter asked him to conduct one of hisown compositions, With the Wild Geese, with the London SymphonyOrchestra in March 1911. Following this he was engaged for the entire 1912-13season of London Symphony Orchestra concerts at the Queen's Hall.

Thanks in no small part to the advocacy of both Sir Thomas Beecham andAlbert Coates, Harty was appointed permanent conductor of the Halle Orchestrain 1920, a position he retained until 1933. During this time he introduced manynew works by composers such as Sibelius, Bax, Walton and Richard Strauss,although his own two 'private deities' (as he called them) were Mozart andBerlioz. As a conductor, indeed, his name is particularly associated with thelatter composer, with whom he had a lifelong affinity. He also made aconsiderable impression during his tours of the USA in the 1930s, developing aclose rapport with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Harty's many awards included a Fellowship from the Royal College ofMusic in 1924, with Honorary Doctorates from Trinity College, Dublin in 1925,from Manchester University the following year, from Queen's University, Belfastin 1933 and De Paul University, Chicago in 1936. He was knighted in 1925 andreceived the gold medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1934. HamiltonHarty died in Hove on 19th February 1941.

As a composer, Harty was almost entirely self?¡-taught, his method beingto learn from the great masters of orchestration. He is best known for hisorchestral music, which falls broadly into three main categories: programmaticworks based on Irish themes or legends (including all three works featured onthis disc) such as An Irish Symphony (1904, revised 1915 and 1924), Withthe Wild Geese (1910), Irish Variations (1912), In Ireland (1935)and The Children of Lir (1938); secondly, the more overtly classicalworks such as the Violin Concerto (1908) written for Josef Szigeti, andthe virtuosic Piano Concerto (1922); finally there are histranscriptions of music by Handel and Field.

The highly evocative tone poem With the Wild Geese was firstperformed at the Cardiff Festival in 1910 and is loosely cast in a palindromicform, ABCBA. Two poems by Emily Lawless act as a preface to the work. The firstof these describes the night before the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745, when anIrish regiment fought for the French. The second (subtitled 'After the Battle;Early Dawn, Clare Coast') witnesses the ghosts of those slain in battlereturning across the water to their homeland. Harty relates the three mainthematic ideas to a specific mood or emotion. A slow introductory theme, markedLento, depicts the soldiers bidding farewell to Ireland, the secondtheme, marked Allegro deciso, portrays the Irish regiment abroad, whilstthe third, Meno mosso, tranquillo, represents their dreams of home.

The brief, rhapsodic fantasy In Ireland was originally composedfor flute and piano in 1918, with the arrangement for flute, harp and orchestramade in 1935. The preface to this work reads 'In a Dublin street at dusk, twowandering street musicians are playing', hence the prominent r??les for the twosolo instruments.

Before his move to London Harty had entered several works for the FeisCeoil in Dublin, an annual music competition inaugurated in May 1897. Hecontinued to do so even after the move, and one of several of his works to wina prize was An Irish Symphony in 1904, a largely autobiographical four-?¡movementwork that employs a number of well-known traditional tunes. In the expansiveopening movement, the longest of the four, two tunes are quoted, Avengingand Bright and The Croppy Boy. The second movement, a humorousscherzo which is often played separately, quotes the reel The BlackberryBlossom and The Girl I left behind me, whilst the improvisationalslow movement is a lament based entirely on Jimin Mo Mhile Stor. Themain theme of the finale, in which thematic elements from earlier movements arerecapitulated, is The Boyne Water, a tune associated with Orangemarching bands. An Irish Symphony is rightly considered to be one ofHarty's finest works and displays to great effect his considerable flair forvivid orchestration.

Peter Quinn

Item number 8554732
Barcode 636943473221
Release date 11/01/2000
Category Symphony
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Harty, Hamilton
Harty, Hamilton
Conductors Duinn, Proinnsias O
Duinn, Proinnsias O
Orchestras Ireland National Symphony Orchestra
Ireland National Symphony Orchestra
Disc: 1
An Irish Symphony
1 With the Wild Geese
2 In Ireland
3 On the Shores of Lough Neagh
4 The Fair-Day
5 In the Antrim Hills
6 The Twelfth Night
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