Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty – Irish Symphony Op. 7
(b. Hillsborough, Irland 4. December 1879- d. Hove, England, 19. February 1941)
Born in Ireland in 1879 Hamilton Harty was surrounded by music from his earliest moments. His father, William, earned a living as a musician and teacher, being an organist in a Church of Ireland parish, sustaining a private teaching studio and running two local choral societies in County Down, Ireland. Hamilton was the fourth of ten children, all of whom were supplied with a reasonable education and musical opportunities, for Harty, this included playing both viola and piano. His formal education was limited, leaving the National School system at 12 years of age. Shortly after this he was appointed organist in the parish of Magheragall, County Antrim from where he moved to the church of St Barnabas, Belfast. Despite the greater workload and concomitant interest level, Harty left St Barnabas after just one year in post. He was to leave other posts after similarly short periods throughout his life.
He then moved to Bray Parish Church, only 12 miles from Dublin, a circumstance which enabled Harty to enjoy the many musical opportunities available there. He commented himself “the years I spent in Dublin were important ones for me, for there I was brought into contact with music of all kinds”1
It was this period which saw Harty’s first entries into the Feis Ceoil, a festival celebrating indigenous Irish music which was critical to the writing of the Irish Symphony. Whilst these were less successful than perhaps he had hoped, they served to begin to develop his compositional abilities.
In 1901 Harty moved to London, a brave decision given that he had no formal qualifications or degree and no common friends to act as an entry point into London musical society. He arrived holding the promise of an organist’s position, a role which he accepted but resigned a short while later, being unable to accept criticism from the vicar of his playing. Through a contact he was asked to accompany performers in various society musical ‘salons’ and gradually came to be recognised as a hugely talented accompanist, able to transpose at sight and score read perfectly at the piano. Such abilities led eventually to Harty being favoured accompanist of such venerable soloists as Fritz Kreisler and Erno Dohnanyi. …
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