Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Patrick Hadley: The Music

Patrick Hadley was influenced by the music of Frederick Delius and also to a certain extent folk music. But there were other non-musical influences in his life too - Ireland and Norfolk gave him a profound sense of landscape and location.
His output was limited. He found the business of composing quite exhausting. Most people think of Hadley as composer of one or two church anthems - I Sing of a Maiden and the mildly erotic My Beloved spake. The catalogue shows a wide variety of musical forms - from a Symphonic Ballad to incidental music for the Twelfth Night. However, there are no cycles of symphonies, concerti or string quartets.

He maintained throughout his a career a sense of the lyrical. Not for him was the experimental music of the Second Vienna School. He had an exceptional understanding of how to set words to music. Much of his music is meditative and quite inward looking. One is left wishing he had written more music for chamber and orchestral forces. Much of Patrick Hadley's music seems to evoke the English and the Irish landscape. This is sometimes overt and sometimes intangible. However it is always done in a very subtle and beautiful way.

One of Hadley's undoubted masterpieces is the Symphonic Ballad - The Trees so High. This is a large-scale setting of the folk song of that name for baritone, chorus and full orchestra. The work is in four movements and it is only in the last, that Hadley deploys the chorus and soloist. It is in this movement that Hadley quotes the folk-song in its entirety.

The Hills was completed in 1944 and is perhaps the finest of Hadley’s cantatas. The others two being Fen and Flood and Connemara. It has strong personal links with the composer’s life, dealing with the meeting, courtship and marriage of his parents. The landscape described is Derbyshire and this is well reflected in the music. One is reminded, perhaps of Delius’ Mass of Life.

Perhaps the gentlest introduction to Hadley is his short orchestral work – One Morning in Spring, which was composed to celebrate Ralph Vaughan Williams 70th birthday. It is a fine example of an English tone poem.

Perhaps the desideratum is the early orchestral sketch ‘Kinder Scout.’ However this is still in manuscript and will take an adventurous record company to produce it.

Although Hadley was best of friends with Ralph Vaughan Williams, he never truly bought into the so-called folk song revival. Much of his music has folk characteristics, however not for him the old adage of Constant Lambert - all you can do with a folk tune is to repeat it -louder! Hadley's use of the folk idiom was subtle.

Much of the composer's output was connected with the Caius Choir. He did a number of arrangements of works in many different genres - from Verdi's Stabat Mater to Waltzing Matilda.
Patrick ‘Paddy’ Hadley’s music will never be widely popular. However, he will appeal greatly to those interested in British music. If he had only composed the Symphonic Ballad – The Trees So High and nothing else, he would be respected as a fine composer. As it is all his works exhibit a great degree of skill, craftsmanship and sheer musicality.
Originally Published on MusicWeb International.

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