Sir Hamilton Harty

(04/12/1879 - 19/02/1941)

Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty a distinguished Irish composer, conductor, pianist, and organist for whom Harty Avenue in Walkinstown is named after.

Herbert was born on 4 December 1879 in Hillsborough, County Down, Ireland. His father, William Michael Harty, an Anglican church organist, introduced him to music, teaching him the viola, piano, and counterpoint. At the age of 12, he became an organist at Magheragall Parish Church, County Antrim, and later held similar positions in Belfast and Bray.

In 1900 or 1901, Harty moved to London to pursue his career. He quickly gained recognition as both a promising composer and an outstanding accompanist, earning the title “the prince of accompanists.” His notable early compositions include the Trio (1901), Piano Quartet (1904), and Comedy Overture (1907), the latter being well-received at the Proms.

In 1904, he made his conducting debut in the premiere of his Irish Symphony. Harty married soprano Agnes Nicholls in 1904, but the marriage was short-lived. As a conductor, he was noted for his interpretation of Berlioz’s music. In 1920, he became the chief conductor of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, restoring its eminence. His tenure saw the introduction of new works and composers, and he championed the music of Berlioz, Mahler, Shostakovich, and others.

Harty’s career also involved a brief stint with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) from 1932 to 1934, marked by controversy and eventual dismissal. In 1932, he became the artistic adviser and conductor in chief of the LSO. However, due to differences with the Hallé committee, his contract was not renewed in 1933, leading to a public fallout.

In the 1930s, Harty faced personal challenges, including health issues and estrangement from his wife. He undertook a journey to Australia in 1934, where he met Lorie Bolland, to whom he dedicated piano pieces. His health declined further due to a recurrent brain tumour, but he continued to conduct and compose until his last public appearance in December 1940.

Harty died on 19 February 1941, at the age of 61, in Hove. Despite personal and professional challenges, his legacy endures through recordings of his conducting brilliance. He was knighted in 1925 for his significant contributions to music. Harty’s compositions, ranging from orchestral works to songs, often drew inspiration from Irish themes, showcasing his deep love for his native country.

His notable works include the Irish Symphony (1904), With the Wild Geese (1912), The Mystic Trumpeter (1913), and The Children of Lir (1938). His music, broadly romantic with a clear Irish traditional voice, continues to be appreciated, and recordings of his performances capture the brilliance of his conducting style.

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Connection with area: Irish composer, conductor, pianist and organist who Harty Avenue is named after.