Henry Kimball Hadley (1871-1937).

  • Profession: Conductor, composer.
  • Relation to Mahler:
  • Correspondence with Mahler:
  • Born: 20-12-1871 Somerville, Massachusetts, America.
  • Died: 06-09-1937 New York, America. Aged 66.
  • Buried: Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts, America.

Henry Kimball Hadley was an American composer and conductor. Hadley was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, to a musical family. His father, from whom he received his first musical instruction in violin and piano, was a secondary school music teacher, his mother was active in church music, and his brother Arthur went on to a successful career as a professional cellist. 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, and, from the age of fourteen, he studied composition with the prominent American composer George Whitefield Chadwick. Under Chadwick’s tuteladge, Hadley composed many works, including songs, chamber music, a musical, and an orchestral overture. 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. Hadley loved the artistic atmosphere of the city, where he could attend countless concerts and operas, and where he occasionlly saw Brahms in the cafes. He heard Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony while there, and it 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. He returned to the United States in 1896 and took a position as the musical instructor at St. Paul’s Episcopal School for Boys in Garden City, New York, 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 16 January 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. It is possible that his studies with Thuille were suggested by Richard 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 19 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 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, 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, 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 31 January 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.

In that same year, 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 (the second half was conducted by legendary Clemens Krauss). 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, Massachusetts, 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 in 1937. During his lifetime he was awarded several honors: an honorary doctorate from Tufts University in 1925, membership in the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Order of Merit from the French government.

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