This disc of performances of orchestral music by Fritz Hart has
recently come into my possession. It seems that it was first released
in 2003 and is, I feel, deserving of a further reassessment. See
International review by Michael Herman.
regard to the accomplishments of the composer Fritz Hart it is
extremely difficult not to focus on his association with the great
teacher and composer Sir Charles Stanford. Some sources state
that Hart studied under Stanford at the RCMA. For example
Imogen Holst is quite categorical in her book Gustav Holst
- A Biography writing of her father, His first friend
at college was Fritz Hart, a fellow pupil of Stanfords.
(Faber and Faber, London, edition 2008) However, it seems
more likely that Hart was not a formal pupil of Stanford. Stanford
clearly took an enthusiastic interest in the young student and
encouraged him significantly. It was essentially Harts friendships
with fellow RCM students Gustav Holst; William Hurlstone; Samuel
Coleridge-Taylor; Frank Bridge et al that led to a close collaboration,
especially with RCM opera productions conducted by Stanford. For
these amateur productions the versatile Hart wrote librettos,
acted and also sang tenor roles. Stanford was impressed with Harts
literary talent and warmly referred to him as the, poet
laureate to the RCM.
There is little doubt that Stanford was a formative influence
on Hart’s general music development. Biographer Dr. Peter
TregearB writes, “Although never taking private
composition lessons under Stanford, Hart nevertheless found
himself in the close company of a number who did, including
William Hurlstone, Evlyn Howard-Jones, Thomas Dunhill, John
Ireland, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and, after an absence of
three years to study history at Cambridge, Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Together they made a close-knit band, Hurlstone and Coleridge-Taylor
in particular joining Holst as close friends of Hart.”
This precocious band of Stanford acolytes would meet regularly
at Wilkins, a Kensington tea shop. These friendships are discussed
by Vaughan Williams’ in his Musical AutobiographyC
and also in the biography of Thomas DunhillD.
Metaphorically speaking Stanford seems to have sprinkled stardust on
his circle of pupils and associates at the RCM, a group, benchmarked
by those who went on to achieve the greatest acclaim. The
list is undoubtedly headed by the distinguished pair: Vaughan
Williams and Holst. Following on behind are the successful
composers: Bridge, Howells, Gurney, Coleridge-Taylor, Ireland,
Bliss, Dyson and Moeran and the conductor Leopold Stokowski. Other lesser lights among the Stanford pupils include: Walford
Davies, Edgar Bainton, Harold Darke, Haydn Wood, Cecil Rootham,
Hamish MacCunn, Rebecca Clarke, Thomas Dunhill, Eugène
Goossens, William Hurlstone, Geoffrey Toye, Arthur Benjamin, Gordon Jacob, George Thalben-Ball, Cecil Forsyth and Arthur Somervell. All
attained various degrees of success during their lifetime
and there are several recording of their scores in the catalogues.
There are also a number of Stanford pupils and associates,
although achieving some success during their careers, who
have faded almost completed from the radar; with commercial
recordings of their scores a distinct rarity. This category
includes William Henry Bell, James Friskin, Emil Kreuz, Sydney
Peine Waddington, Nicholas Gatty, Richard Walthew, Landon Ronald
and Edward Naylor. I would have to include Frit Hart
in this category - composers who have been generally ignored
and virtually abandoned.
of the RCM composers from this era, probably frustrated by the
limited amount of opportunities afforded by the fierce competition,
searched abroad to improve their professional prospects. The subject
of this disc Fritz Hart was one of several former RCM students
to take advantage of colonial links by emigrating to Australia
in 1908. Former Stanford pupils Edgar Bainton emigrated to Australia
in 1934 and William Henry Bell moved to South Africa in 1912.
Fritz Hart, composer, conductor, writer and singer was born
in 1874 at Deptford, in what is now designated as the Greenwich
area of London. A chorister at Westminster Abbey under Frederick
Bridge and a student of the Abbey School, Hart later studied
at Eton Public School. After leaving school in 1889 Hart’s
first job was as a junior clerk for a City stockbroker. After
a year working in a Westminster architect’s office he moved
on to London’s Coal Exchange.
Hart’s father, realising that his son was not suited to the
world of finance and commerce, agreed to a career change,
allowed Fritz to sit an entrance exam at the RCM. From 1893
during his three year period of study at the RCM Hart undertook
tuition in piano, organ and some singing. There Hart came
under the influence of luminaries Stanford, George Grove and
Hubert Parry, and there is plenty of evidence that he involved
himself fully in college life.
After leaving the RCM in 1898 with a glowing reference in
hand from Parry, the RCM director, Hart’s first professional
appointment was as an actor for a touring theatre company.
Later he worked for four years as a conductor in music theatre
for the Wilson Barrett company. A conducting engagement followed
in 1901-02 for the D’Oyly Carte ‘D’ Company touring under
William Greet. In 1903, it seems that Hart returned to Wilson
Barrett’s theatre company and in 1905 he gained employment
as a musical director for George Edwardes’ theatre company
at the King’s Theatre in Hammersmith.
A watershed in Hart’s career came in 1909 when he took the
brave step of emigrating to Australia on the steamship China
for employment as a conductor for the theatre company of J.
C. Williamson in Melbourne. The resourceful Hart in 1912 became
a music critic for The Age, a Melbourne newspaper.
Significantly, at this time, Hart met George Marshall-Hall
and was appointed as a lecturer at Marshall-Hall’s, Albert
Street Music Conservatorium in Melbourne.
Hart’s career had progressed and in 1916 he succeeded founder
Marshall-Hall as Conservatorium Director holding the post
until 1937. Another prestigious appointment was Hart’s conductorship
of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra from 1928. During
his years in Australia, Hart kept himself up to date with
the work of his contemporaries in England, frequently receiving
copies of newly published scores, for detailed study, by his
friends Vaughan Williams, Holst, Granville Bantock and Philip
From 1938 Hart travelled across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii
and became a regular guest conductor of the Honolulu Symphony
Orchestra. This appointment led to his making a bold move
and settling on the island. He was made the orchestra’s permanent
conductor in 1937 and subsequently became the first professor
of music at Hawaii University. The outbreak the Second World
War proved difficult for Hart’s musical creativity and he
concentrated on other activities including the completion
of some 24 novels and some verse. He died in Honolulu in 1949.
David Dunhill outlines in the biography of his father Thomas
DunhillD how in 1936 he met Hart, his father’s
good friend, who had returned briefly to England. “Tom
was happy in his company…He was an attractive person of high
vitality and the ability to make anyone he met feel he was
really interested in him or her…and thought him one of the
most remarkable people I had yet encountered”.
the most accessible resource for information on Fritz Hart
is the entry in Grove Music Online. Hart’s prodigious compositional
output amounts to well over 500 surviving scores, the majority
of which were songs. His love for the stage is demonstrated
by the writing of 22 operas. Prof. Richard Divall, the conductor
of The Bush on this disc, has accentuated to me the
great breadth of Hart’s enormous oeuvre. It embraces most
genres but is especially notable for the large quantity of
song settings. I am aware that Richard Divall has edited Hart’s
unperformed Symphony, a Fantasy for violin and
orchestra, the Mass (1912) and is enthusiastic about
a high quality String Quartet. There are several volumes
of Hart’s works published by the Marshall-Hall Trust and the
University of Melbourne. I believe that some of Prof. Divall’s
Hart editions, in particular the String Quartet,
are lodged in the British Library. It has recently come
to my attention that one of the world’s finest chamber ensembles
is showing great interest in studying string quartets by Marshall-Hall
date the only works of Hart that I have encountered are those
on this disc which form part of an Anthology of Australian
Music on Disc. The release is a joint venture from the
School of Music at the National Institute of the Arts, the
Australian National University, Australian Music Centre and
ScreenSound Australia. Comprising 41 discs some of the series
can be purchased as individual titles. Evidently the recordings
originate from ABC radio broadcasts from 1993/94.
first work on the present disc is The Bush which Hart
completed in 1923. As its title suggests it is seemingly a
musical representation of the Australian outback as seen through
the eyes of its English born, bred and trained composer. Nevertheless,
the score is a remarkable perceptive evocation of the dynamics
of the Australian landscape. One can easily imagine The
Bush as a depiction of the musical imagery of the landscapes
created by Hart’s friend Sir Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) the
eminent Australian painter; such as say, the oil paintings:
Golden Summer, Eaglemont (1889); At Templestowe
(1889); Whelan on the Log - The Selector's Hut (1890)
and The Purple Noon's Transparent Might (1896). The
sound quality is close and clear, however, a certain amount
banging and coughing is audible with audience applause at
the end of the score.
opening movement of The Bush, marked Poco lento
e sostenuto develops from a mood of relative calmness
to an approaching thunderstorm; rather evocative of the music
of his good friend Holst. To my ears the atmosphere convincingly
suggests the mystery and eeriness, and the immense vistas
of the Australian outback. Marked Allegro vivace the
second movement contains often frantic and edgy music. The
conductor cites leitmotifs portraying nature sounds
such as birdcalls and possibly the movement of a wombat. In
the third movement Adagio the proceedings take on a
lyrical, almost hymn-like quality. A sense of rhythmic mysticism
in the string layers reminded me at times of the characteristic
sound-world that Alan Hovhaness was to employ over thirty
years later in his tone poem Mysterious Mountain (1955).
Here one can imagine Hart suggesting an inspiring and affecting
harmony between heaven and earth. Sadly, at point 3:03 (track
3) a loud extraneous thump from somewhere in the Concert Hall
momentarily interrupts the tranquil mood. Hart’s love of the
opera is documented and I was fascinated at 4:46-4:53 (track
3) by a very brief Puccini-like episode. The fourth movement
Allegro contains a robust and spirited opening, highly
reminiscent of the opening to Jupiter, the Bringer
of Jollity from Holst’s The Planets (1914-16).
From 3:05 (track 4) Hart develops a folk-like theme in a way
similar to Holst in Jupiter. In the concluding Lento
Hart seems to be evoking an opulent portrait of the nocturnal
atmosphere of the outback. With the flickering woodwind and
murmuring strings I was reminded at times of the Ravelian
fantasy world of Daphnis and Chloe (1909-12). In several
ways the brilliant finale was suggestive of the strong
Holstian inspiration to the score. I believe that The Bush
could easily gain significant popularity if a classical
radio station was to include, say, the impressive opening
movement on its playlist.
of Hart’s final scores to be completed, the Idyll for
violin and orchestra was composed in 1949 for Konrad Liebrecht
the concertmaster of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. At the
time Hart had been living in Honolulu for around thirteen
years. Any late-Romantic single movement work for violin and
orchestra composed by an Englishman will invite comparison
with Vaughan Williams’s 1914 The Lark Ascending,
a masterwork for violin and orchestra. Not surprisingly
I know of no comparable score by an English-born composer
from the same period that can inhabit the same elevated league
as The Lark Ascending.
Hart Idyll is performed by impressive violin soloist
Ronald Woodcock and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra under
Graham Abbott. It was splendidly recorded in the ABC Studio
520 at Collinswood, Adelaide. The responsive solo violinist
plays throughout virtually the whole of the seventeen minutes
of the score. A mood approaching pastoral tranquillity permeates
Hart’s writing against the soloist’s romantic rhapsodising.
Despite episodes of intensity and passionate displays that
contrast with an overall peacefulness, the score, although
attractive and a valuable addition to the repertoire, lacks
the memorable quality of the finest works in the genre. The
Idyll is in some ways similar to Julius Harrison’s
Bredon Hill a Rhapsody for violin and orchestra (1941),
a score evidently inspired by the Malvern Hills and prefaced
by A.E. Housman’s verse.
booklet notes by Peter Tregear and Richard Divall are concise
and informative. Overall the sound quality is clear and well balanced.
Played with skill and considerable affection these are most acceptable
readings. The disc should interest any collector specialising
in late-Romantic music, especially those who like to look further
than the mainstream. Serving the reputation of Fritz Hart splendidly
one hopes that these performances will spark off a resurgence
of interest in this fascinating Anglo-Australian-Hawaiian composer.
I wait in hope for future performances of these Hart scores under
English music specialists such as: Vernon Handley, Richard Hickox,
David Lloyd-Jones and perhaps one day from violin soloists of
the calibre of Tasmin Little and Nigel Kennedy.
see also Review
by Michael Hernan
Peter Tregear maintains that The Bush pays a certain debt
to English music pastoralism for its suggestion of folk melodies
and also allusion to the imagery of Gaelic twilight. Hart himself,
later provided the following explanation of the score:
“…what I wanted was the mystical side of the bush, a great
song full-throated - the bush has that effect; it is lonely sometimes;
it has so many moods, but always mysterious, the great quiet,
and the tall trees. I tell you, up in Queensland, in this State,
in Victoria, to stand alone in the bush - it’s terrifying.B
The suite is in five parts. They are to represent an emotional
reaction - my emotional reaction to the Australian bush. The first
movement is a prelude, suggesting the mystery of the bush; the
second is a scherzo, to suggest the impish and grotesque, or faery
element of the bush. Third is to represent the strength and majesty
and joy of the bush. But as far as I’m concerned, the human element
doesn’t enter into it. It is apart from us, and greater than us,
and doesn’t care about us - the bush, that is.”B
In 1933 The Bush together with Joll’s Credo, Op.
98 (1930) won Hart first prizes in both the orchestral and choral
sections of the composers’ competition of the Australian Broadcasting
A It is at times difficult to provide definitive information
on pupils of Sir Charles Stanford. In an attempt to clarify whether
or not Fritz Hart was a pupil of Stanford at the RCM I have provided
the following information:
It is sometimes stated or implied in several sources that Hart
did study with Stanford. For example:
1) Charles Villiers Stanford. Man and Musician by Jeremy
Dibble. Pub: Oxford University Press (2002) ISBN 0-19-816383-5.
Pg. 267 and index pg. 513.
2) Biographical details of William
Hurlstone on Musicweb International.
Conversely, other sources state Hart’s attendance at the RCM and
mention connections with Stanford but not a pupil teacher relationship.
3) Grove Music Online states that “Stanford was a formative
influence during his years at the RCM (1893-6) although he did
not study composition.”
4) Charles Villiers Stanford by Paul Rodmell. Pub: Ashgate
Publishing (2002) ISBN 1-85928-198-2.
(i) Pg. 351 contains a Table 8.2 titled Selective list of Stanford’s
composition students (RCM and Cambridge) that is predominantly
taken from a list in Greene’s Stanford. The table includes
the name of Fritz Hart with the codicil, “Not taught by Stanford
but influenced considerably by him at the RCM.”
(ii) Pg. 371 contains a Table 8.3 tiled Selective list of appointments
held by former Stanford pupils. The table includes the name
of Fritz Hart with a codicil added, “Not taught by Stanford
but his influence was clearly acknowledged by Hart.”
B Fritz Bennicke Hart: An introduction to his Life
and Music by Peter Tregear (M. Music Thesis, University of
C Ralph Vaughan Williams: A Study by Herbert
Foss Including Chapter 3: Musical Autobiography by Ralph
Vaughan Williams. Pg. 28 Publisher: George G. Harrap & Co.
Ltd. London (1950).
D Thomas Dunhill - Maker of Music by David Dunhill.
Pg. 10 Publisher: Thames Publishing, London (1997) ISBN: 0-905210-44-1.