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Henry HADLEY (1871-1937)
Scherzo Diabolique op.135 (1934) [7:05]
Salome - tone poem op.55 (1906) [31:03]
Cleopatra's Night - Intermezzo op.90 (1918) [4:50]
Othello Overture op.96 (1919) [14:34]
San Francisco op.121 (1931) [13:38]
The Enchanted Castle - Overture op.117 (1933) [7:44]
BBC Concert Orchestra/Rebecca Miller
Ileana Ruhemann (flute)
World premiere recordings except Salome
rec. Watford Colosseum, 2014

This is Henry Hadley the American composer of broadly the same generation as the UK's Bax and Bantock and of France's Ravel, Roussel and Dukas. His US contemporaries included G W Chadwick, J A Carpenter, Louis Coerne, Arthur Foote and C M Loeffler. He was an admirer of Richard Strauss and a pupil of a Munich-based composer, Ludwig Thuille, whose works are at last being recorded. A Germanic grounding for a composer was not uncommon in the USA and evidence can also be found in the works of Macdowell and Chadwick. A moderating French/Russian voice can be heard in the music of Coerne, Loeffler, Farwell, E B Hill and E S Kelley.

While the British composers of this era have enjoyed revivals since the 1970s, latterly from Lyrita and Dutton, their counterparts from across the Atlantic have had a thinner time of it. Yes, the Society for the Promotion of the American Heritage (SPAMH - Music in America) did record extensively in the 1960s using English orchestras like the RPO conducted by Karl Krueger. Those MIA LPs had very little commercial circulation and only a smattering of that orchestral repertoire has come fresh direct to CD. Krueger's miraculous analogue recordings have in part been reissued by Bridge (review review review) and, as we shall see, Naxos have made substantial contributions in that direction too: Loeffler, Foote, Strong, Carpenter. In this field we should not forget the work of Howard Hanson as conductor (Mercury and Pristine (vols 1-3, 4, 5), of Jose Serebrier for Chadwick (Reference) and Kenneth Klein (EMI Classics). Some progress has been made with the piano music of Foote (Delos - Kirsten Johnson's survey of the complete piano music) and of the fascinating Farwell (Toccata).

The present valuable disc, at a stroke, adds six works to Hadley's orchestral representation alongside a Naxos disc and another from Bridge; the latter duplicating Salome. Scherzo Diabolique is the latest work here. It is a fulminating, melodramatic and mephistophelean piece which shares aspects of its character with Hadley's much earlier Culprit Fay Rhapsody of 1909 - a piece you can hear on Naxos alongside his Ocean tone poem and Fourth Symphony. Its ways will occasionally remind you of Bantock's Pierrot and Sea Reivers, of Dukas' L'apprenti sorcier and less frequently of Ravel. The highly-coloured Salome tone poem is in six separately tracked movements played without a break. The styles encompassed are familiar: Dukas (some ragingly vivid and bleakly tragic fanfares at 4:50 in part I), Franck (the tone poems), Bantock-like sighing oriental atmosphere (II and IV), high-tension despair (V) and dark clouded character of the type you will recognise from the end of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet. The short Intermezzo, Cleopatra's Night is lightly and flightily balletic. Ileana Ruhemann's flute underlines its melancholy elegance. Othello came one year after the Intermezzo. Its moodily Tchaikovskian tones suggest a companion to the Russian composer's Hamlet without the elder composer's drama. In Hadley's case the emotions of the Othello story are glimpsed thorough a gauze and with the distance lent by the passage of time. The next two works, like the Scherzo, are late works from the first half of the 1930s. San Francisco is a pictorial suite in three movements and would go well alongside Ibert's Escales though Ibert deploys a slightly more modern palette. Hadley paints a bright and bustling picture for The Harbour, fantastic Chinese effects, woodblocks and slippery woodwind writing for Chinese Quarter and a surging, dazzling and explosive upbeat with a French accent for Mardi Gras. The affably sumptuous Enchanted Castle with its Elgarian ways was written for school orchestras.

The well-proportioned notes by Bret Johnson set the music in context and remind us that apart from a crop of orchestral works Hadley also wrote operas and songs.

It is extremely welcome that Dutton have begun to make very serious exploratory inroads into this territory. Their CDs of orchestral works by Loeffler (CDLX7313), Converse (CDLX7278), Chadwick (CDLX7293) and Carpenter (CDLX7321) are well worth hearing. They will not be short of future projects but I hope that Dutton will look closely at the orchestral music of Edward Burlinghame Hill, E S Kelley (especially his tone poem The Pit and the Pendulum), J J Becker, Arthur Farwell (the Gott Symphony and The Gods of the Mountains) and the later and remarkably gifted Cecil Effinger (his symphonies 3-5 and oratorios). They could hardly do better than remain with the BBC Concert Orchestra and Rebecca Miller. The results are magnificent and that applies also to the sound which is both refined and gripping. Only praise for the generous timing. Well done.

Hadley is an imaginative writer with a predilection for affably sumptuous romantic music.

Rob Barnett



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