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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Hamilton Harty - Piano Concerto; In Ireland; With the Wild Geese (Malcolm Binns; Bryden Thomson)


Composer: Hamilton Harty
  1. Piano Concerto in B minor: I. Allegro risoluto
  2. Piano Concerto in B minor: II. Tranquillo e calmo
  3. Piano Concerto in B minor: III. Con brio e vivace
  4. In Ireland, fantasy for flute, harp and orchestra
  5. With the Wild Geese

Malcolm Binns, piano (1-3)
Colin Fleming, flute (4)
Denise Kelly, harp (4)
Ulster Orchestra
Bryden Thomson, conductor

Date: 1983
Label: Chandos



With this collection the Ulster Orchestra comes to the end of its recordings of Harty's music and very intriguing they have been too; and if all have been interesting at the least, the music on this record does not surpass the fine setting of Keats's Ode to a Nightingale coupled with The Children of Lir (ABRD1051, 5/82), admirably conducted, as have been all of these works, by Bryden Thomson. This record contains the only work by Harty that is at all well known, his tone poem With the Wild Geese, of which there is even a comparison—Sir Alexander Gibson's version on HMV. This is still by a good deal the best piece on the record, a splendidly-scored and vividly-imagined picture of the feelings of the Irish Regiments (the Wild Geese) who fought for France at the battle of Fontenoy in 1745. Professor David Greer, who provides the authoritative notes for these records (he holds the Harty Chair of Music at the Queen's University of Belfast), describes the music as ''very much in the Tchaikovsky mould''; and the emphasis must be put on the word 'mould', for the influence is on the shape of the piece and the portrayal of incidents, and not on any strong musical aspect. This early work (1910) is strong enough and individual enough to stand in its own right. There is little difference between the two performances but this new version has the advantage of 15 years, as well as digital recording and mastering by the DMM process. It is most vivid piece of playing.

The Piano Concerto came in 1922, when Harty was established as conductor of the Halle Orchestra and it rather disappointed me. It is said to be very much in the Romantic tradition, with Rachmaninov as the immediate source of inspiration but I found its invention of very much lesser quality, lacking the sweeping tunes and the seductive harmonies of that composer. Harty himself played the solo at the first performance and Sir Thomas Beecham conducted. Professor Greer does not say how it was received on that occasion.

I like the piece for solo flute and orchestra, In Ireland (1935), very much more—indeed, a great deal. It sounds unashamedly Irish in idiom, the scherzo part suggesting an Irish fair day. It is tautly constructed and altogether rewarding for any flautist—here, the Ulster Orchestra's principal flute, Colin Fleming, who proves himself a very accomplished player. The orchestra itself sounds a trifle thin in the Concerto (admirably handled by Malcolm Binns) but is at its best elsewhere, especially in With the Wild Geese.

I have also listened to the cassette which is of thoroughly faithful quality.

-- 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.


Malcolm Binns (born 29 January 1936 in Nottingham) is a British classical pianist. He studied music at the Royal College of Music in London from 1952 to 1956. He made his London debut in 1957 and frequently appeared at the Proms in London, starting in 1960. Binns is a noted authority on British piano music, his repertoire thereof including works by composers such as Arnold Bax, Benjamin Britten, Hamilton Harty, John Ireland, Edmund Rubbra and Charles Villiers Stanford. He has appeared with many other orchestras and conductors internationally and performed on numerous BBC radio broadcasts.

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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