Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Hamilton Harty - An Irish Symphony; A Comedy Overture (Bryden Thomson)


Composer: Hamilton Harty
  1. An Irish Symphony: I. On The Shores of Lough Neagh (Allegro molto)
  2. An Irish Symphony: II. The Fair Day (Vivace ma non troppo presto)
  3. An Irish Symphony: III. In The Antrim Hills (Lento ma non troppo)
  4. An Irish Symphony: IV. The Twelfth of July (Con molto brio)
  5. A Comedy Overture

Ulster Orchestra
Bryden Thomson, conductor

Date: 1980
Label: Chandos



Chandos Records have done Hamilton Harty proud in their series of his music played by the Ulster Orchestra under Bryden Thomson. The original digital LP's were splendid—natural and of excellent quality in every way; the cassettes I thought equally good; and now comes this CD which shows by its beautiful sound that the original recordings were of the most faithful kind, for anything other would have undoubtedly shown up on CD. The sound is spacious (the Ulster Hall in Belfast is obviously a 'natural' for recording) and a small point in itself, the booklet of notes by David Greer is printed in type large enough to read easily.

The symphony is delightful in its limited way but is one of my less favourite Harty works. The authorities of the Dublin Festival made a grievous mistake in 1901 when they decided in their patriotism that the prize composition must be based on Irish airs; for nobody, so far as I know, has written a good symphony on folk-tunes. ''The Fair Day'' is the best known movement, successful because a scherzo does not need to be seriously symphonic. But I must not blame Harty, since he said later that he entered the competition—he was then very young—only because h emight have the chance of conducting his music and hear how it sounded. As it is, the Irish airs are admirably handled and I daresay the tunes, may of them well-known, will delight a lot of listeners.

In the Comedy Overture he has two well-contrasted themes and if the work only hints at greater music to follow (The Children of Lir at the summit) it does that with much resource and skill.

-- Gramophone

More reviews:


Hamilton Harty (4 December 1879 – 19 February 1941) was an Irish composer, conductor, pianist and organist. In his career as a conductor, which began in 1904, Harty was particularly noted as an interpreter of the music of Berlioz. From 1920 to 1933 he was the chief conductor of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, which he returned to the high standards and critical acclaim. During his conducting career, Harty made some recordings with his orchestras. Though few of Harty's compositions continued to be regularly programmed in the concert hall, several of his works have been recorded for compact disc.


Bryden Thomson (16 July 1928 – 14 November 1991) was a Scottish conductor. He study conducting, first with Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt and then with Igor Markevitch. Thomson was remembered especially for his championship of British and Scandinavian composers. His recordings include influential surveys of the orchestral music of Hamilton Harty and Arnold Bax. Thomson held posts as principal conductor of several British orchestras, including the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra (1968–1973), the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra (1978–1982) and the Ulster Orchestra (1977–1985).


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