Harty, Hamilton


Harty, Hamilton

A John Field suite, Transcription for Small Orchestra by Hamilton Harty

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Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty – A John Field Suite

(b. Hillsborough, Irland 4. December 1879- d. Hove, England, 19. February 1941)

John Field
(b. Dublin, 26 July 1782 – d. Moscow, 23 January 1837)

A John Field Suite

Preface (by Jim Dalton,
Boston Conservatory at Berklee, 2018)
There are some uncanny similarities in the stories of the two composers who created this work. They were both born in Ireland, about a century apart. Both came from musical families and studied under Italian mentors. Beginning their careers in Ireland as children, they moved while still young to London. There their careers began to flourish. Both brilliant pianist/composers encountered challenges in their professional lives due to the nature of their personalities.

John Field (b. Dublin, 26 July 1782 – d. Moscow, 23 January 1837) was born into a family of professional musicians. His father (a violinist) and his grandfather (an organist) were his first teachers. Beginning at age nine, he studied with Tomasso Giordani, a Neapolitan pianist and teacher. Giordani was one of a long line of Italian musicians who made their careers in Dublin and greatly influenced the musical scene there. Within a year, Field was performing in public to high critical praise.

He moved with his family to London and studied with Muzio Clementi. By age 19, he was a fixture in London’s concert life. By this time, he had published three sonatas (op.1) which are considered his first significant compositions. 

Field’s work with Clementi was also an apprenticeship during which he learned the business of selling pianos. At the age of 20 he toured Europe with Clementi, making a debut in St. Petersburg, where the reception of his playing and the offer of a teaching post encouraged him to settle in that city.

Field became increasingly well-known for his pianistic style. As Liszt described it: “His fingers glided over the keys, and the sounds they awoke seemed to follow them like a ridge of feathery foam.” His compositions adapted to his technique. The best-known Field pieces today are the Nocturnes, a form that he originated. The left hand plays an arpeggiated accompaniment, more wide-ranging than the Alberti basses of his predecessors. Over the accompaniment flows a melody ornamented chromatically and freely varied. Liszt again: “With what an inexhaustible wealth did he not vary the attire of the thought on its repetition! With what a rare success did he turn and twist it (without injuring it) and envelope it in a network of Arabesques!”

Field seems not to have learned good business practice from his apprenticeship with Clementi, who on at least one occasion referred to him as a “lazy dog.”


Read full preface > HERE

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