Home » Uncategorized » Henry K. Hadley and his Symphony No. 4

Henry K. Hadley and his Symphony No. 4

Henry Kimball Hadley (December 20, 1871–September 6, 1937) was an American composer and conductor. Hadley was born in Somerville, MA, to a musical family. His father, from whom he received his first musical instruction in violin and piano, was a secondary school music teacher in the Somerville public schools, his mother was a singer and pianist active in church music, and his brother Arthur went on to a successful career as a professional cellist who played with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In the Hadley home, the two brothers played string quartets with their father on viola and the composer Henry Gilbert on second violin. Hadley also studied harmony with his father and with Stephen Emery, violin was under Henry Heindl and Charles Allen and, from the age of fourteen, composition with the prominent American composer George Whitefield Chadwick. Under Chadwick’s instruction, Hadley composed many works, including songs, chamber music, a musical, and an orchestral overture. By the age of seventeen, be composed an operetta, Happy Jack. One-year later on December 9, 1889, an entire concert devoted to his original compositions was given at the Franklin Church in Somerville, when the young and proud composer was presented with a violin made of flowers. By his twenty-first birthday, Hadley had composed a string quartet, and a dramatic overture for orchestra.

In 1893, Hadley toured with the Laura Schirmer-Mapleson Opera Company as a violinist. But he left the tour when the company encountered financial difficulties and was unable to pay his salary. In 1894, he travelled to Vienna to further his studies with Eusebius Mandyczewski, revered musicologist and editor of authoritative editions of the works of Schubert, Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms and Caldera. Hadley loved the artistic atmosphere of the city, where he could attend countless concerts and operas, and where he occasionally saw Brahms in the cafes. While there, he heard Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony which made a strong impact on him. During this period Hadley also befriended the German-American conductor Adolf Neuendorff, who gave him advice regarding his compositions. Returning to the United States in 1896, Hadley took a position formerly held by Horatio Parker as the musical instructor at St. Paul’s Episcopal School for Boys in Garden City on Long Island, NY, where he worked until 1902. He wrote some of his important early compositions during his time there, including his overture In Bohemia, and his first and second symphonies. He also found prominent conductors to perform them, such as Walter Damrosch, Victor Herbert, John Philip Sousa, and Anton Seidl. Hadley made his own debut as a conductor on January 16, 1900, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, leading a program mostly made up of his own works.

In an age when American orchestras preferred European conductors to home grown ones, Hadley felt that he needed to establish himself in Europe. So he returned to Europe in 1904 to tour, compose, and study with Ludwig Thuille in Munich who introduced Hadley to the new music of Reger, Mahler and Richard Strauss. It is possible that his studies with Thuille were suggested by Strauss, whom Hadley met shortly after arriving in Europe. Hadley composed his symphonic poem Salome in 1905, not realizing that Strauss, whom he greatly admired, was working on an opera on the same subject. The work was eventually performed in at least nineteen European cities, and he was invited to conduct it, along with his newly finished third symphony, with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1907. In the same year, he obtained a position as an assistant conductor at the Stadttheater opera house in Mainz. In April 1909, his first opera, Safié, premiered in Mainz under his baton. Later that year he returned to the United States to take a position as conductor of the Seattle Symphony. In 1911, he became the first conductor of the San Francisco Symphony. Hadley encountered some difficulties in San Francisco, where he tried to turn a group of theater musicians into a first rate orchestra. He brought a number of excellent musicians from the east, including his brother Arthur, to be principals in the new orchestra, but this created some resentments among the locals. Nonetheless, by his departure in 1915 to pursue composition full-time, the orchestra had made great strides.

Hadley returned to New York in 1915, where he made many appearances as a guest conductor, and premiered many of his best known works. In 1918 he married the lyric soprano Inez Barbour, a well-known concert singer who thereafter sang many of her husband’s works. Between 1917 and 1920 three of Hadley’s operas received high profile premieres, including Cleopatra’s Night which bowed at the Metropolitan Opera on January 31, 1920. Hadley conducted some of the performances, becoming the first American composer to conduct his own opera at the Met, and the opera was revived the following season. Several critics judged it the best among the ten American operas to appear at the Met to that point. In 1921 Hadley was invited to become the associate conductor of the New York Philharmonic, the first American conductor to hold a full-time post with a major American orchestra. During his years there, his conducting received excellent reviews. As well as occasionally taking the helm for regular Philharmonic concerts, Hadley was assigned to lead stadium concerts during the summer, where he selected many works by American composers. He was eventually asked to regularly select American works for the Philharmonic to perform. He remained in this post until 1927, when he resigned. During his lifetime he was was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1924 and awarded several other honors including an honorary doctorate from Tufts University in 1925.

In 1927, Hadley was invited to conduct the first half of the season of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Buenos Aires, the first American to conduct the orchestra. In 1929, Hadley was invited to become the conductor of the newly formed Manhattan Symphony Orchestra. He led the orchestra for three seasons, including an American work in every concert. He then stepped down due to his frustrations with fundraising for the orchestra in the wake of the stock market crash. In 1930, was invited to conduct six concerts with the New Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo. His visit to Asia was met with great enthusiasm, and he composed a new orchestral suite, Streets of Pekin, inspired by a side trip to China, and led its world premiere with the Japanese orchestra. In 1933, Hadley founded the National Association for American Composers and Conductors, which exists to this day. He was also instrumental in establishing the Berkshire Music Festival at Tanglewood, MA, in 1934. In 1932, Hadley was diagnosed with cancer. Surgery was initially successful, and Hadley continued his career as a composer and guest conductor. However, his popularity as a composer began to wane, as popular and especially critical opinion turned against the robust romanticism which Hadley’s music embodied. Hadley’s cancer recurred, and he died in New York City on September 6, 1937.

Hadley’s output included many overtures, symphonic poems, orchestral suites, and five symphonies. He also wrote brief concertos for both cello and piano. In addition he wrote a large number of stage works, including several operettas and musicals, along with his five operas, of which Azora and Cleopatra’s Night received the most attention. His comedy Bianca won a prize offered by the American Society of Singers for the best chamber opera in English. Hadley later adapted music from these works to be performed as orchestral suites. His chamber works include a violin sonata, two string quartets, two piano trios, and the quintet in a minor for piano and strings, Op. 50, written in 1919. There was also a good number of cantatas and oratorios, some of them, such as Resurgam, conceived on a very large scale. His work as a composer of nearly 200 songs is noteworthy as well. A pioneer in film music, he was invited by Warner Bros. to conduct The New York Philharmonic for the soundtrack music for its 1926 film, Don Juan with John Barrymore, the first feature film with synchronized music and sound effects.

My collection contains the following works by Hadley:

The Culprit Fay, Rhapsody, op. 62 (1908).
The Ocean, Tone Poem, op. 99 (1921).
Symphony No. 4 in dm, op. 64 (1911).

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

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