HADLEY:  Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 64.  The Ocean, Op. 99.  The Culprit Fay, Op. 62
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine; John McLaughlin Williams, cond.

NAXOS 8.559064 (B) (DDD) TT:  68:39

Henry Kimball Hadley (1871-1937) is a fascinating figure on the American musical scene.  Although born in Massachusetts and focused for  much of his life on the east, he also had a major connection with the west: in 1909 he was appointed conductor of the Seattle Symphony and two years later became first conductor of the newly formed San Francisco Symphony.  For seven years beginning in 1920 he was associate conductor of the New York Philharmonic Society.  In 1918 he married concert singer Inez Barbour and two years later his opera Cleopatra's Night was premiered at the Met. A check of the Metropolitan Opera Annals shows the premiere was  Jan. 31, 1919 with a cast that included Frances Alda.  Apparently it is a rather short opera as it was part of a twin-bill that included Pagliacci.  There were three more performances after which, at least as far as the Met is concerned, Cleopatra's Night disappeared.  (Other now-forgotten operas presented that season were L'Oiseau Bleu by Albert Wolff and Leoncavallo's Zaza.)  In 1933 McKay founded the National Association for American Composers and Conductors, which endowed the Henry Hadley Memorial Library now housed at the New York Public Library. In the summers of 1934 and 1935 he led members of the New York Philharmonic in what was called the Berkshire Symphonic Festival; because of illness he stepped aside and in 1936 Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony took over the Festival, now Tanglewood.

Hadley was incredibly prolific. His works include operas, operettas, incidental music, musicals, ballet suites, band pieces, symphonies, overtures, tone poems, cantatas, hymns, oratorios, choral pieces, chamber music, piano solos and numerous songs. He is said to have written "the first musical score to be recorded and played in synchronism with an entire motion picture" when he wrote the score for the Vitaphone Company film When a Man Loves, released in 1926. His music is remarkably pleasant and imaginative; his melodic gift is always apparent, his orchestration vivid.

The Ocean was premiered by the New York Philharmonic with the composer conducting in 1921.  This is a rather short (14:26) symphonic poem inspired by verses by Louis K. Anspacher vividly describing moods of the ocean, its power, danger and a sea-sprites interlude with a serene, reflective ending.  Another symphonic poem, The Culprit Fay, Op. 26 comes from an earlier period (1908).  The composer conducted the premiere in 1909, and it won the $1,000 prize of the National Federation of Music Clubs.  It is based on a poem The Culprit Fay written in 1817 by American poet Joseph Rodman Drake which tells the story of a fairy, within a background of Hudson River scenery, who makes the mistake of falling in love with a mortal maiden and must successfully accomplish difficult tasks in order to achieve redemption.  This is a luminous score, appropriately described in the CD notes as having "the orchestral shimmer of Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice with the added romantic flair of Richard Strauss' tone-poems."  It was quite popular at the time and other leading conductors played it often including Frederick Stock and Victor Herbert.

The Fourth of Hadley's five symphonies was composed for the Norfolk, Connecticut Festival and premiered with the composer conducting June 6, 1911.  Hadley also performed it with other orchestras, including the Boston Symphony February 7, 1925.   The composer describes the work as a musical portrayal of moods suggesting first, the frozen North, second, the Far East, third, our own Southern ragtime rhythms; and fourth, the spirit of the West of our Pacific Coast. It's a rather long symphony (38:20) that holds attention throughout.  Of particular interest is a theme in the first movement appearing for the first time about 3' in that is identical to Leonard Bernstein's "Glitter and Be Gay" from Candide written more than four decades later (1956).  Could Bernstein have heard Hadley's symphony?

John McLaughlin Williams conducts with spirit and authority; the orchestral playing is top-notch, with state-of-the-art engineering  by producer Alexander Hornostai and engineer Andrij Mokrytsky.  Comprehensive CD notes by Marina and Victor Ledin complete a most attractive package.  Totally recommended!

R.E.B. (July 2001)

Other reviews of CDs in the American Classics series can be found on this site including: Antheil, Carpenter, Gould, McKay, and Herbert.