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This sounds like a greenhouse grown hydrangea reacting to being indoors in a pot for the winter. Sounds like it's rooted out and is utilizing what water the pot does still hold very quickly and then going thirsty, but with those greenhouse hydrangeas it could be a lot of things. Remember that these are thirsty plants and need a LOT of water, more than most houseplants, so if it starts dropping leaves like that it ios often a defensive reaction to low moisture (plants transpirate (breathe) through their leaves, so the less leaves the less moisture lost to the atmosphere) I doubt the plant is actually dying, but it will look like it. I'd plant that hydrangea once you are past your frost date...