ALBUM TITLE: Harty
WORKS: Piano Concerto in B minor
PERFORMER: Peter Donohoe (piano); Ulster Orchestra/Takuo Yuasa
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557731
Rightly remembered as a great conductor, Sir Hamilton Harty was also well thought of as a composer in the first decades of the last century. Fluent, skilful, with a tinge of Irish folk music and sometimes Irish subject-matter, his music fits comfortably into the late-Romantic mould and, if hardly world-shaking, is always enjoyable. The Piano Concerto of 1922, a sort of Ulsterman’s Rachmaninov, is a spirited, highly attractive work with some melodic freshness, both in the gently melancholic slow movement and the more overt Irishry of the finale, which quotes the Fenian
tune ‘The Wearing of the Green’, possibly a rather daring gesture at
the time. There is a very good, though ageing, version from Malcolm Binns on Chandos, but this Peter Donohoe performance seems more alert, making more of the interplay between piano and orchestra in the first movement.
Of the fillers, the eventful and genial Comedy Overture remains one of Harty’s more-often played pieces, but the 1919 suite Fantasy Scenes, subtitled ‘From an Eastern Romance’, is an extreme rarity – it didn’t feature on Chandos’s Harty series under Bryden Thomson and this may well be its first recording. Reinforcing the impression of Harty’s skill as an orchestrator, it’s almost light music, though drawing on the ‘oriental’ idiom made common currency by, for example, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade; one could also imagine it as a little ballet. Certainly it rounds out a very agreeable disc. Calum MacDonald