Herbert Harty

Herbert Hamilton Harty (1879 - 1941)

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Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty
Born in Hillsborough, County Down, Irelandmap
Son of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died in Hove, Sussex, Englandmap
Profile last modified
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"Born at Hillsborough in County down (Ireland), Hamilton Harty came to England in 1900. He was taught music by his father and became a church organist at the age of twelve. In England, he gained a reputation as a piano accompanist, then as a conductor, in which latter capacity he was renowned as an interpreter of the music of Berlioz. In 1920 he was appointed conducted of the Halle orchestra and was knighted five years later. His wife was the singer, Agnes Nicholls. Harty composed symphonies, orchestral overtures, a violin concerto (first performed by Szigeti), piano concerto, a quintet, instrumental music for oboe, cello, violin, piano, harp etc, a cantata (the mystic trumpeter) and songs. His best known work is the tone poem With the wild geese, written for the Cardiff festival of 1910." - British music society publication "British composer profiles"


Harty was known for the unmistakably Irish sound in many of his compositions, was a respected conductor, and was at one time considered the premier accompanist in London.

Harty was born in Hillsborough, Ireland, the fourth of ten children of church organist William Michael Harty (1852–1918) and his wife, Annie Elizabeth, the daughter of Joseph Hamilton Richards, a soldier from Bray. Raised an Anglican, Harty played viola, piano, and organ as a child. Initially following in his father's footsteps, he held positions as a church organist from age twelve. He moved to London in 1901 to pursue a musical career as accompanist, and accompanied an impressive list of soloists, among them John McCormack, W.H. Squire, Joseph Szigeti, Fritz Kreisler, and soprano Agnes Nicholls, whom he married on 15 July 1904. Harty did most of his composing between 1901 and 1920, including his An Irish Symphony, his tone poem With the Wild Geese, his Violin Concerto, and his setting of Ode to a Nightingale for soprano and orchestra, premiered by Nicholls.

After short stints with the London Symphony Orchestra and elsewhere in England, Harty became permanent conductor of The Hallé in 1920, a position that he held until 1933. Under his baton, the Hallé became one of the premier orchestras in England. He was knighted in 1925. From 1931 to 1936, Harty toured in America and elsewhere, conducting in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Rochester, as well as in Sydney, Australia.

Harty's health began to deteriorate sharply in 1936: a malignant brain tumour was discovered and surgery was required. After both the growth and his right eye were removed, Harty convalesced in Ireland and Jamaica during 1937 and 1938. But his illness continued to trouble him, and he conducted for the last time on 1 December 1940. Because of Harty's estrangement from his wife, the conductor was nursed through his final illness by his secretary and intimate friend, Olive Elfreda Baguley. Harty died in Hove; after cremation his ashes were placed in Hillsborough parish church.


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