Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty – In Ireland for flute, harp and small orchestra
(b. Hillsborough, Ireland 4 December 1879- d. Hove, England 19 February 1941)
Completed August 1935
Premiere: 14 December 1935 in a radio concert of the BBC
Lambert Flack (flute), Sidonie Goossens (harp)
BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer.
Irish „folk“ music became so well known worldwide in the 20th century that the term „Irish music“ nearly almost evokes associations with this catchy music, but not with Irish composers of the past. One worth rediscovering is Hamilton Harty. Harty was born in 1879 in County Down, Ireland and grew up in a musical family. His father was an organist and choir director in his home town: „“I was brought up on international music, on Anglican church service, and the classical chamber writers.”1 He learned to play the piano and viola and, after graduating from school, initially worked as an organist like his father. Later he became acquainted with the classical-romantic orchestra repertoire as a violist in a Dublin orchestra association. For many years he was the official piano accompanist of the annual music competition Feis Ceoil in Dublin. Founded in 1897, this music festival has inspired many musicians and composers to rediscover Irish music history. Besides his work as an accompanist for the festival, Harty composed chamber music.
For him and for a number of his music-making and composing colleagues, the artistic opportunities in mainly rural Ireland were not very encouraging, and so he moved to the music metropolis of London in 1900, without a university degree and without any personal support. But he soon developed into the celebrated „prince“ of the piano accompanists. He gave concerts with leading musicians and singers of the time, including the soprano Agnes Nicholls, whom he married in 1904. In that year he conducted his Irish Symphony Op. 7 at Feis Ceoil in Dublin as the winner of a competition for symphonies that were based on Irish folk melodies. From his time in Dublin until well into the 1920s, Harty was mentored by the local composer and pianist Michele Esposito, so it is hardly surprising that he was inspired by his eponymous symphony (1900). The first decade in London was to be Harty‘s most fruitful period as a composer, with great orchestral compositions, songs and chamber music. In a series of works using themes from folk songs and dances, Harty made himself known as an „Irish“ composer in his English environment. He also taught himself conducting. Throughout his life he remained faithful to his romantic-conservative musical language, he did not believe in musical logic and „the terrible cleverness of the moderns“2. In 1920 the self-taught conductor Harty was appointed principal conductor of the Manchester Hallé Orchestra, which he developed into Britain‘s leading ensemble of his time. He conducted numerous world premieres of his British composer colleagues such as Bax, Delius, Moeran, Vaughan Williams and Walton. In 1925 Harty was ennobled and awarded honorary doctorates by the Universities of Dublin and Manchester. After 1933, he was one of the most famous conductors of the British Isles and a much sought-after guest conductor in the USA and Australia.
In Ireland was completed in August 1935. The version for flute, harp and small orchestra is published here for the first time. The premiere was conducted by the composer and took place on 14 December 1935. For this piece Harty used a composition of the same name for flute and piano which he had finished in 1915 (first edition 1918). At that time he had written it for the well-known flutist Albert Fransella. Compared to the chamber music version the effectively orchestrated orchestral version is extended by a few bars in the introduction and several transitional passages, and the virtuoso passage work of the flute part is also supplemented in some parts. The solo instruments flute (tin whistle) and harp are typical Irish instruments, indeed the ‚Irish harp‘ has been considered a national symbol since the 18th century and is therefore emblazoned on the crest of the Republic of Ireland. As in his Irish Symphony, Harty adds a descriptive title addition at the beginning: „In a Dublin street at dusk, two wandering street musicians are playing”
The imaginative work can be clearly divided into six sections: (1) After an effective prelude with stately arpeggios, the flute begins with an extended elegiac song, improvising in high register (Moderate, con passione). (2) After a virtuoso solo cadenza, a dance section, beginning pianissimo (a lontano, scherzando) follows, which – little artificially alienated – exhibits all the characteristics of a reel, the widespread Irish dance: two groups of four eighths per bar, combined into eight bars. (3) As a reminiscence the introductory idea appears again briefly and leads into another reel (Vivace). (4) In a contrasting slower section (espressivo) the reel of the second section is artfully varied, the last part Vivace (5) picks up the reel of the third section and leads it to a convincing conclusion.
Übersetzung: Peter Dietz
1 Hamilton Harty, in: The Musical Times 61(1920), p. 227
2 ibid. p. 229
For performance material please contact Boosey & Hawkes (www.boosey.com), Berlin.