Conductor Sir Hamilton Harty = SMETANA: The Bartered Bride Overture; DVORAK: Carnival Overture, Op. 92; Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 “From the New World”; LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 (arr. Doppler); BRAHMS (arr. Parlow): Hungarian Dance No. 5; Hungarian Dance No. 6; DVORAK: Slavonic Dance No. 1 in C, Op. 46, No. 1 – London Philharmonic Orch. (Smetana)/ Halle Orch./ Sir Hamilton Harty/Myra Hess and Hamilton Harty, piano duet – Pristine Audio PASC 331, 65:36 [avail. in various formats from pristineclassical.com] *****:
Sir Hamilton Harty (1879-1941) enjoyed a conducting career that might have rivaled that of Sir Thomas Beecham, had Harty lived another twenty years. As it was, Harty established himself as an original creative artist and composer, as well as a dominant interpreter of Berlioz, Bax, Brahms, and Beethoven. Harty’s peerless work with the Halle Orchestra of Manchester from 1920-1933 returned that musical organization to its former peak of excellence that had marked its tenure under founder Charles Halle.
The Dvorak shellacs restored by master producer Mark Obert-Thorn date from 30 April 1927 (Carnival) and 2 May 1927 (New World). Harty takes the Carnival Overture at a bristling pace without forfeiting texture or articulation of line; even the ubiquitous triangle makes its points. Despite the weepy application of string portamento, the visceral integrity of competing cross-rhythms comes through, the cadential accents crisp. The transition to the slower middle section includes a vivid harp entry which then cedes its majesty to woodwinds born to play the nocturne section of The Moldau. The violin, harp, and oboe combine for some magical Dvorak in the annals of recordings. The return to the festival energy, unfortunately cut, offers some blazing bravura, including stratospheric trumpets and piccolo.
The Harty New World Symphony has had prior CD incarnation on the Symposium label (1169), but Obert-Thorn’s adjustment of pitch and volume issues has rendered us a refreshed, driven yet poetic account of this popular favorite. [Amazing, coming from the 1920s!—but it was after all following the switch from acoustic to electrical recording…Ed.] Like Talich, Harty can deliver wondrous speed and interior lines that do not smear. Harty assumes the British counterpart to Willem Mengelberg’s bravura sensibility. We won’t hear this kind of propelled clarity until George Szell commands his Cleveland Orchestra 30 years later. A slight ritard just prior to the last convulsion to the first movement coda makes a huge dramatic point. The spaciousness Harty accords the wonderful Largo movement bestows a passionate intimacy and color detail that we associate more with Talich and Stokowski. At moments, the swelling mix becomes a fervent English horn concerto before receding back into a chamber music dirge and personal elegy in the form of “Goin’ Home.” The Scherzo assails us as pure bravura, the “molto” in Molto vivace urged to the hilt, and the Trio a veritable war dance. Processional vigor marks the opening of the finale: Allegro con fuoco, and the rest becomes torrential history. Harty conveys real menace in the slower sections, poised against the main theme that offers rhythmic and spiritual resolution. The idiosyncratic yet silken approach to metrics and phrasing could be mistaken for an Oskar Fried rendition of this warhorse! If this music has ever entered into anything like imaginative complacency in one’s mind, this Harty reading will cure it!
The encore, from 17 October 1933, proffers two gifted musicians, Harty and Myra Hess at one keyboard, joyously realizing the C Major Slavonic Dance. The central section tinkles and jingles with pure brio. The Labeques meet their stylistic match here. Harty himself had already made points with the LPO in Smetana’s ultimate salute to the power of love to overcome town gossip, in the Overture to The Bartered Bride (17 November 1933) that appears first on this elegant disc, a tour de force of dynamic and motor control. The Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 (10 April 1931) swaggers in gypsy bombast and brassy showmanship, as if Mischa Levitzky (or Stokowski) had taken control of the Halle. The violin cadenza and oboe solo take us into a gypsy or Hollywood café where Melvyn Douglas woos Greta Garbo, quite successfully, if the remainder of the piece understands the festivities. Finally, two of the more popular Brahms Hungarian Dances (11 February 1929) whose sonic potency belies age, time and transience in all its forms. Hamilton Harty died 19 February 1941, but I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.
Historic renderings of music from France