Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Classical Music of Ireland: Hamilton Harty

Whenever I think of March, I think of St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe it’s the Irish blood in me but I thought it’d be fun to look at a few Irish composers this month, and then explore the Irish influences in a few pieces by composers who were not born in Ireland. Today, let’s look at a man who didn’t just compose, but was also known as an organist, pianist, conductor, orchestrator, and arranger!

Hamilton Harty (1879–1941) was introduced to music at a young age by his father. He learned to play the viola, piano, and would often play organ at church. Later on, he moved to London where he became better known as a conductor and accompanist. Harty conducted for many prominent orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra’s 1912–1913 season. In 1920 he began his role as conductor of the Hallé Orchestra where he remained until 1933. During this time, he introduced the orchestra to many new works.

Hamilton Harty-Courtesy of wikimedia.org

Harty’s orchestral works can be divided into three categories. He has those works that are strictly classical such as his Violin Concerto and his Piano Concerto. He has works that are transcriptions of pieces by composers including Handel and Field. He also has works that draw on Irish themes including the piece we will listen to today, In Ireland.

In Ireland was written in 1918 as a piece for flute and piano. Harty later orchestrated it in the version you can hear below. The headnote on the score reads “In a Dublin street at dusk two wandering street musicians are playing.” Can you hear the Irish influences?

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