Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hamilton Harty String Quartet

Hamilton Harty
performer: Goldner String Quartet
Label: Hyperion
Released: May 2012

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In a rise of Britain chamber music by Maggini String Quartet, here comes another an Irish composer, Hamilton Harty (1879-1941). In this CD is a Piano Quintet in F and two String Quartets in F and Am. These two string quartets are a calm work and rich in melody. I think the style quite distint to his countrymen who most base their work on Anglo-Celtic scale. Harty's sound more universal, something more remind me of the Russian movement in this era.

A quote from the CD liner:

The first movement of the F major Quartet, full of invention and artifice, reveals if anything an over-ambition for developmental treatment in its zeal to explore new keys and new transformations. Yet one can detect a savoir faire in the handling of the quartet apparatus, and the melodic material is resourceful, bright and invigorating in its joie de vivre and contrapuntal dexterity. The will-o’-the-wisp scherzo in D minor, surely inspired by his knowledge of the late quartets of Beethoven and Mendelssohn, shows real flair in its quick-silver scoring and its love of tonal surprise, especially in the trio. The pastoral slow movement in B flat major is more expansive melodically and is richly scored. It also incorporates another surprise—the unexpected interpolation of the scherzo at its centre. The vivacious and technically demanding finale, which possesses musical ideas of lyrical interest and contrapuntal ingenuity, is an engaging if eccentric structure. Harty’s developmental phase begins in a remarkably chromatic manner (curiously suggestive of Bruckner) which leads with some surprise to a false yet extended recapitulation of the opening thematic material in E flat major. Even more unexpected, however, is the introduction of an entirely new episode before F major is restored for the final reprise, which has, by now, taken on the rhetorical mantle of a ‘rondo’ theme.


Harty’s String Quartet No 2 in A minor, Op 5, was composed after he moved to London in March 1901. There he rapidly became the capital’s leading accompanist and was in considerable demand by the most prominent soloists of the day, among them Fritz Kreisler, Harry Plunket Greene and Agnes Nicholls (whom he married in 1904). Like the first Quartet, the second was a prizewinner, this time for the Dublin Feis of 1902 where it was successfully premiered on 8 May. Harty was in the audience to hear it played by his friends from the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Arthur Darley, P J Griffith, Octave Grisard and Henri Bast. Its second and last hearing (prior to the present recording) was given by four prominent London musicians, Alfred Gibson, Juliet Capron, Alfred Hobday and Helen Trust, on 22 December 1902 at Copped Hall, Totteridge, Hertfordshire, the home of Sir Harold Edwin Boulton, an amateur poet and music-lover.

Revealing a marked advance on the first Quartet, this work, featuring a prominent ‘autobiographical’ viola part, is at once more fluent. The first movement evinces a greater sense of technical mastery of the quartet idiom, a feature, in fact, common to all four movements. The lilting ‘hop jig’ scherzo in 9/8, fertile in its dexterous manipulation of the hemiola, acts as a more vivid contrast with its trio in 2/4, while the slow movement imparts a more convincing sense of balance than its earlier counterpart in the first Quartet, as well as an intensely lyrical and more personal emotionalism at the climax. The imaginative finale, full of rhythmical √©lan, exhibits perhaps the most intricate writing for the quartet in the whole work, and the more embellished use of the slow movement’s second subject as secondary material is an effective cyclic touch. The appearance of this material in the unexpected and unconventional area of the subdominant reflects Esposito’s influence, but the most unusual introduction of new material—a chorale-like theme in F sharp minor—in the development and the much-truncated recapitulation reveal an entirely maverick streak of Harty’s personality which had been anticipated in the corresponding movement of the F major Quartet.
 

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