A Comedy Overture, composed in 1906 and first performed at a Queen’s Hall Promenade Concert in 1907, was one of the works which brought Harty to wider notice as a composer. The title simply reflects the lively character of the music, and does not imply any theatrical connection. There are two main themes: the first is heard on the oboe after the bustling introduction, and its jaunty rhythm pervades much of the music; the second is slower and is first heard on the woodwind. Two instances must suffice to illustrate the varied and imaginative way in which Harty treats these themes. One occurs at the end of the development section, where the piccolo (over a bagpipe drone on the bassoons) embarks on a recapitulation of the first theme in the ‘wrong key’. It is then left to the timpanist to beat out the right notes and prepare the way for the real recapitulation on the clarinet. The other example occurs later in the piece, when the second theme is heard on the cellos with the harmonies most subtly altered. •
Fantasy Scenes (From an Eastern Romance) was composed in 1919 and first performed by the Hallé the following year. It paints the conventional ‘Arabian Nights’ picture of the East which was popular at that time, as made famous in music by Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. •
Harty’s Piano Concerto in B minor was composed at Fiesole in Italy in 1922 while the composer was staying with the Espositos. Harty was the soloist (Beecham conducting) in the first performance the following year, and the bravura writing for the solo instrument is a reminder of what a fine pianist he was. The work is very much in the Romantic tradition, with shades of Rachmaninov in the piano and orchestral writing, the chromaticisms, the beguiling countermelodies, and the air of lingering melancholy.
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