Goldner String Quartet / Piers Lane

Hamilton Harty: String Quartets; Piano Quintet

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Commentators have found echoes of composers from Schubert to Bruckner and Elgar in these chamber works by Irish composer Hamilton Harty, whose works have been rediscovered along with the rest of the non-avant-garde scene of the beginning of the 20th century. Much of the stylistic diversity can be explained with reference to Dvorák, who was the logical figure for a young Irish composer to emulate, and whose late music encompassed everything from Brahms to folk material to salon music. Harty offers Irish-flavored melodies here, but also Slavic and French sounds (Franck's Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 14, is an influence on Harty's quintet), and it's not always easy to tell which national tradition is being referenced. But Harty kept his melodic gift afloat in the face of these foreign influences (and a few domestic ones), and Australia's Goldner Quartet, with pianist Piers Lane in the quintet, achieves suitably lyrical readings. The composer favors the introduction of unusual string effects as a movement proceeds, and the Goldner executes these entertainingly. Hear the end of the finale of the String Quartet No. 1 in F major, the earliest work on the album and perhaps the least cohesive, although Harty was clearly a splendid tunesmith from the beginning. There is not really anything here that had not already been said elsewhere, but both performances and engineering are top-notch, and the album nowhere provides less than pleasant listening for aficionados of the music of the British Isles.

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