(b. Somerville, Massachusetts, 20. December 1871 — d. New York City, 6. September 1937)
In 1927’s Warner Bros. film adaptation of the 1731 novel Manon Lescaut (L‘Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut), the filmic fadeout on two happily escaped prisoners embracing in a small lifeboat, bound for the implied freedom of life in America, slaps a decidedly more upbeat finish on the tragedy of Manon Lescaut and her lover. But the audience was in for an additional surprise, for just as the film was about to end, it briefly affords an onscreen bow to the Vitaphone Symphony Orchestra and its conductor, Herman Heller (1881–1959).
This brief image of the orchestra—on film—was a sharp reminder to the audience that the orchestra itself was NOT present in the theater pit, as would have been expected. Moreover, it underscored the fact that the music heard throughout the movie, though composed specifically for this film and fully synchronized to dramatic action as never before, was presented as bona fide art music, much as the audience would expect to hear in a concert hall.
It was not altogether remarkable, however, that the composer of the score to “When a Man Loves,” was Henry Kimball Hadley. Hadley, a prolific composer and respected conductor, was also an enthusiastic and energetic lifelong promoter of American art music. But his interest in marrying the elevated world of cultivated music to the democracy of a movie theater seat, using new and exciting technologies for maximum broad-based appeal, was thoroughly characteristic of this indefatigable musician and remains one of his chief legacies.
Henry Kimball Hadley was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, into a musical family. As a young musician, he studied under Second New England School composer George Chadwick (1854-1931) and at the New England Conservatory. In 1894, he traveled to study in Vienna with composer and conductor Eusebius Mandyczewski (1857-1929), a noted member of the “Brahms Circle.” By the time Hadley knew him, Mandyczewski was working as editor of the Schubert Gesamtausgabe and director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde orchestra.
After beginning his career by teaching at St. Paul’s School in New York (1895-1902), he inaugurated a successful conducting career with numerous USA and European orchestras. His work later extended to Asia, and he was the first North American to lead an orchestra in South America. His compositional career was equally active, with a style firmly rooted in the Romantic, favoring the conventional Germanic compositional traditions then prevalent in the USA. During his lifetime he produced five symphonies, six operas, numerous tone poems, and a large portfolio of songs—many written for his wife, Inez Barbour Hadley (1879-1971), Pennsylvania-born lyric soprano, to perform. …
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