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Henry Kimball Hadley was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, on December 20, 1871. His father was a music teacher in the Somerville public schools, his mother was a singer and pianist, and his brother, Arthur Hadley, was a talented cellist who played with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The young Hadley, received his first music lessons from his father. 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.
Obviously endowed with musical talent, and encouraged by the praise of friends and critics, Hadley now devoted himself more diligently than ever before to intensive musical study. Violin was studied under Henry Heindl and Charles Allen, harmony under Stephen A. Emery, and counterpoint and composition with George W. Chadwick, whose influence on the young composer was very marked. By his twenty-first birthday, Hadley had composed a string quartet, and a dramatic overture for orchestra.
In 1893, Hadley toured with the Mapleson Operatic Company as a violinist, but left the organization when the rumor reached him that it was on the verge of bankruptcy. The following year found him in Vienna studying with Eusebius Mandyczewski (1857-1929), revered musicologist and editor of authoritative editions of the works of Schubert, Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms and Caldera.
In 1896, Hadley accepted a position formerly held by Horatio Parker as music instructor at St. Paul's Episcopal School for Boys, in Garden City, Long Island. Four years later found him branching out in still another, and for him a more fruitful field of musical activity, when he made his debut as conductor at the Waldorf-Astoria, in New York. From 1904 until 1909, Hadley made regular tours of Europe, composing and studying in Munich with Ludwig Thuille (1861-1907), who introduced Hadley to the new music of Reger, Mahler and Richard Strauss. He also guest-conducted orchestras in Berlin (he was the first American to do so!), Warsaw and at the Stadttheater in Mainz. In 1909 he was appointed conductor of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and in 1911 he became the first conductor of the newly formed San Francisco Symphony. He left his post in San Francisco in 1915 to pursue composition full-time, although he continued for the rest of his life to guest conduct many of the greatest musical organizations, including the London Symphony and the Boston Symphony. From 1920 till 1927 he was associate-conductor of the New York Philharmonic Society, and in 1929 he formed the Manhattan Symphony Orchestra with the plan of including works of American composers on every program. In 1930, he was invited by the New Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo to give a series of performances, which he did with great success.
On September 2, 1918, Hadley married Inez Barbour, well-known concert singer. Two years later the Metropolitan Opera House presented his opera, Cleopatras Night. In 1925, Ginn and Company, a Boston-based educational publisher, contracted with the Starr Piano Company, manufacturers of Gennett Records, to issue a series of educational recordings to accompany its publications for a "complete course in music appreciation for the elementary schools in America." The soloists included Theo Karle, Frederick Baer, and Hadley's wife, Inez Barbour. Recorded acoustically, Henry Hadley conducted members of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra anonymously on many of these educational 78rpm discs. When production of the series shifted to the Columbia Phonograph Company in 1926, the earlier recordings were replaced by a newly electrically recorded series once again produced under the direction of Hadley. These were, unfortunately the only commercial recordings ever made by Hadley.
In 1924 Henry Hadley was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters , and in 1933 he founded the National Association for American Composers and Conductors, which endowed the Henry Hadley Memorial Library (the Americana Collection), now housed at the New York Public Library. In the summers of 1934 and 1935, Hadley led members of the New York Philharmonic in what was called the Berkshire Symphonic Festival. Although Hadley founded the now world-famous Berkshire Music Festival, he was too ill to continue to program and conduct it for another year. Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony agreed in 1936 to step for Hadley, and since that time the festival has been identified with the Boston orchestra. Henry Hadley died in New York City on September 6, 1937.
Marina and Victor Ledin, Encore Consultants, © 2001.