The centrepiece of this disc is Hamilton Harty’s 1927
recording of Dvořák’s New World Symphony.
It has been issued before, on Symposium 1169 and on Hallé
Tradition CD HLT8000, but this Pristine Audio comfortably surpasses
them both. The lifelike but noisy Symposium had a number of
annoying ticks, and the Hallé Tradition was a dead duck,
being badly over-processed. Pitching has also been corrected
in this latest transfer.
Though repeats were light on the ground in this Columbia recording,
the basic elements of Harty’s performance are intact.
Its linearity is coupled with intensity to produce a performance
of volatile drive. There are even times when one thinks of Harty’s
English contemporary Albert Coates. Harty certainly drives to
the crest of the climax in the first movement with powerful
zest. One appreciates too the Mancunian winds, as individualistic
as ever, and the famed, taut brass. The strings play with considerable
dash led, I think, by Alfred Barker - this recording was made
just after Harty and his leader Arthur Catterall fell out with
spectacular results. It’s a recording in which Allegro
molto means just that and in which con fuoco means
con fuoco. Idiosyncrasies noted, there is a huge amount
to admire, not least in the poetic sensibility brought to bear
on the music which, combined with its masculine fervour, alerts
one to the all round stature of the direction and music making.
Harty made very few bad records.
Harty, at the turn of the twentieth century, one of London’s
most admired piano accompanists, was joined by Myra Hess for
a clubbable and ebullient Slavonic Dance in C major, the first
of the Op.46 set. At a time when most of Harty’s acoustic
piano recordings lie languishing in limbo, it’s good to
find this 1933 electric restored to the marketplace. I remember
it fondly from a Pearl LP transfer. The Carnival Overture
(with the London Philharmonic this time) was recorded a few
days before the Symphony in a mini Dvořákfest.
This makes it the earliest of the pieces in this disc. Once
more we feel Harty’s liking for lithe and directional
intensity - purposeful, dynamic, and alive with kinetic energy.
His accelerandi are truly inspiring. To complete the Czech theme
we have the overture to The Bartered Bride from 1933,
another brisk, zesty traversal.
Don’t overlook the famous Doppler arrangement of Liszt’s
Hungarian Rhapsody No.12 in which the Halle principals can be
heard in their vivid splendour, as can some truly luscious portamenti
from the Hallé strings. Nor the two Brahms arrangements
where the sound in the Free Trade Hall is more recessive than
Central Hall, Westminster two years later. The boxier sound
for the Brahms duo is not fatal.
This well selected programme with its Czech and Hungarian theme
has been finely transferred.