Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Hamilton Harty - Violin Concerto; Variations on a Dublin Air (Ralph Holmes; Bryden Thomson)


Composer: Hamilton Harty
  1. Violin Concerto in D minor: I. Allegro deciso
  2. Violin Concerto in D minor: II. Molto lento
  3. Violin Concerto in D minor: III. Allegro con brio
  4. Variations on a Dublin Air, for violin and orchestra

Ralph Holmes, violin
Ulster Orchestra
Bryden Thomson, conductor

Date: 1979
Label: Chandos



These are the two big works from what was originally a two-LP set of Harty's music that included also some of his lighter pieces, and it makes sense to single them out for a CD reissue. They are not especially individual (even some of the more overtly Irish pages set one wondering whether Dvorak or Tchaikovsky had Hibernian blood in their veins, and is that not Zoltan O'Kodaly lurking in the introduction to the Variations?) but they are very tuneful, likeable and in the best sense well made: the slow movement of the Concerto judged severely, is really rather long for its vein of pleasantly wistful lyricism, but Harty never gives in to the temptation to over-stuff its orchestration or to rhetorical pretence that his material is deeper than it is; the artless theme of the Variations is subjected to ingenious transformations (a lively jig, a charmingly demure salon waltz, a graciously lyrical pas-de-deux for the violinist and a solo cello) but never bombastic ones. The scoring is bright and clean in both pieces, and there are plenty of opportunities for gratefully ardent or nimbly capricious solo playing, seized with gusto by the admirable soloist.

The Ulster Orchestra was a smaller group than it is now when it made this, its first recording, and the closeness of the perspective in the Concerto shows up a lack of amplitude in the string sound somewhat, allowing the brass to dominate the tuttis, but the balance between soloist and orchestra is pleasingly natural. Try the last movement of the Concerto: it is irresistibly engaging and just the sort of thing that Bruch would have written had he got round to an Irish Fantasy.

-- Michael OliverGramophone

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.


Ralph Holmes (1937-1984) was an English violinist. He was a student of Ivan Galamian and George Enescu.


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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