Born in Budapest, Hungary, Harmati emigrated to the United States in 1914. In America, he was active as a chamber musician and helped co-found the Lenox String Quartet, as well as the American Music Guild.
Harmati was a champion of American music and a prolific composer himself. Besides his success with "The Bluebird of Happiness," Harmati had his one-act opera Prelude to a Melodrama premiered under Stowkowski in 1928. He also wrote pieces for solo violin and numerous songs.