Hamilton Harty / London Symphony Orchestra - Walton. Symphony 1 - Decca 1935

William Walton:  
Symphony no.1 in B flat minor
I. Allegro assai  ~  II. Presto con malizia  ~ 
III. In poco lento con malincolia  ~  IV. Maestoso - Brioso ed ardentemente - Vivacissimo - Maestoso  
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London Symphony Orchestra   (leader  George Stratton)  conducted by  Sir Hamilton Harty   
London Enterprise  414 659-1   1985 LP  Originally issued as Decca  X.108-13.    78 matrices: TA2078 & 2083-93   
Recorded:  9-10 December 1935 -  Thames Street Studios.
78 Transfer by Bryan Crimp.   Re-edited November 2011.     Sleeve-note text >>>

William Walton was a Northerner and it was only natural that he should have taken a particular interest in the fortunes of Manchester's Halle Orchestra and its inspiring conductor, Sir Hamilton Harty. To this celebrated team Walton promised his first major piece of absolute music, the Symphony in B flat minor. When Harty left Manchester in 1933 to assume control of the London Symphony Orchestra he took that promise with him and Walton's new symphony consequently appeared in the next LSO prospectus, announced for performance in March 1934. It was not to be; the symphony's composition coincided with a turbulent period in Walton's life. Although the work was conceived on the crest of a wave prompted by the success of Belshazzar's Feast, it was not long before Walton found himself beset by personal problems and ill-health. Musically, he became paralysed, quite unable to pen the required finale. It was therefore decided to unveil the symphony as it stood in December 1934 - much to the alarm of the composer, who feared that the finale would thereafter be considered an afterthought. The score was eventually completed in August 1935 and premiered in its entirety the following November, with Harty conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra. When he came to make this premiere recording in December 1935 Harty reverted to the LSO.

This much needed re-issue adds a further dimension to Harty's great interpretative gifts as represented by the recordings he made. Unquestionably one of Britain's greatest conductors, he is today largely remembered as a revelational interpreter of Berlioz and Elgar Here, however, is a very different Harty: thrusting and positively relishing the uncompromising toughness of what must have been, fifty years ago, an uncommonly dissonant, even, at times, ferocious score.

 Herbert Hamilton Harty was born in Ireland in 1879 and came to London at the turn of the century with a reputation as a brilliant accompanist. His first appearance before an orchestra was in 1904 when he conducted the premiere of his Irish Symphony, though it was not until he went to the Halle Orchestra in 1920 that he secured his first major conducting appointment. He found the orchestra in dire trouble, but made an instantaneous impact; his beguiling personality and remarkable musicianship rapidly elevated the Halle Orchestra into the international league. Harty's troubles began in 1930 with the founding of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, which purloined many of his finest players. Furthermore, his growing reputation in America was frowned upon by the Halle Committee, who considered him their exclusive property. They parted company in 1933. Harty's LSO appointment was shortlived, due principally to the onset of the illness which led to his death in 1941. Fortunately, his recordings with the LSO, amongst which this performance stands supreme, seem untouched by these problems.

This transfer was made from commercial pressings; the first of the twelve 78 rpm sides appears to have been recorded in isolation, which accounts for the marginal difference in sound quality between this and the remaining sides. Sonically, the recording has long been considered 'problematic'- how did the engineers in 1935 cope with such an unleashed torrent of sound? - but the scores dramatic intensity as well as its haunting beauty have never been more convincingly realised.

Bryan Crimp 1985