What is Medfield MA known for

Charles Martin Loeffler
(born Schöneberg, Prussia, January 30, 1861
- d. Medfield, Massachusetts, USA, May 19, 1935)

La Villanelle du diable, op.9

Charles Martin Loeffler was born as Karl Martin Löffler on January 30, 1861 in Schöneberg, Prussia. In later times he denied this and pretended to come from Mühlhausen in Alsace. This may be due to the fact that in Loeffler's youth his father had rebelled against the Prussian authorities and was later a political prisoner for a few years, which aroused a decidedly anti-German attitude in Loeffler. However, the files of the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin list Schöneberg as the place of birth, and both parents were Berliners. Loeffler became a real cosmopolitan: his father initially traveled around the world as an expert in agricultural sciences with lectures; Loeffler temporarily spent his childhood in Hungary and Russia. He was a talented violinist, studied with the great Joachim in Berlin and later with Massart in Paris. At the age of twenty Loeffler finally emigrated to the States, where he lived until his death. He was granted American citizenship in 1887. From 1882 to 1903 he was second concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and as a sought-after soloist he performed both his own and the major European solo concerts with this orchestra. Loeffler was well known and respected in Boston society; he was friends with influential Bostonians such as Isabella Stuart Gardner, in whose house he often played music, and the painter John Singer Sargent, whose portrait of Loeffler is now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. After retiring, he retired to Medfield, Massachusetts and became an old school farmer, though his musical influence lingered in Boston and New York. Among other activities, he was also an advisor to the institution that eventually became the Julliard School of Music. After a long and successful career including serving as one of the great old men on the American music scene, Charles Martin Loeffler died at his home in Medfield, Massachusetts on May 19, 1935.

La Villanelle du diable, Op. 9, was written in Dover, Massachusetts in the summer of 1901. Originally it formed the Deux poems pour grand orchestre with another poem, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra on April 11, 1902 under Wilhelm Gericke, conductor of the orchestra from 1885 to 1889. The other poem was revised in 1915 and has been performed on its own since then. La Villanelle du diable is dedicated to Franz Kneisel; the autograph has not survived. The score was published by Schirmer in 1905; an arrangement for piano four hands by Marcel Labey was published there in 1908. La villanelle du diable is a reworking of the third of Loeffler's Rhapsodies pour voix, clarinette, alto et piano, composed in the summer of 1898. The text comes from Les névroses by Maurice Rollinat and is about of the devil who dances around in the night and spreads horror in the mortal world. The clarinet part of the Trois Rhapsodies was originally intended for Loeffler's good friend Léon Pourtau, but who tragically died in July 1898 during a trip to Europe on the steamer Le Bourgogne. Therefore the Trois Rhapsodies are dedicated to his memory. There was no evidence of a performance of this work during Loeffler's lifetime, but the music was undoubtedly very important to him, especially since he immediately started to make changes, resulting in Loeffler's most famous work today, the Deux Rhapsodies for Hautbois, alto alongside La Villanelle du diable et piano (1901), emerged from the first two of the Trois Rhapsodies. La Villanelle du diable consists of a single sentence, labeled Presto (il piu possible). The orchestration is brilliant and atmospheric; the harp plays a central role and the organ is also used in one section. The work is decidedly programmatic, based on Rollinat's poetry. Loeffler quotes the old French revolutionary style La carmagnole (1793) and, as is often the case in his works, Gregorian chant. This fascinating piece was never recorded professionally, and an internet search from May 2009 found no performance since 1931. The return of La Villanelle du diable to the concert stage is long overdue.

Lynn Thompson, Assistant Professor of Music
Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois
May 2009

The performance material is available from Benjamin, Hamburg. Reprint of a copy from the music library of the Munich City Library, Munich.

neberg, Prussia, January 30, 1861
- d. Medfield, Massachusetts, USA, May 19, 1935)

 

La Villanelle du diable, Op. 9

Charles Martin Loeffler was born Karl Martin Löffler on January 30, 1861, most likely at Schöneberg, Germany (then Prussia). Loeffler later completely renounced Germany as his birthplace in favor of Mulhouse, Alsace. When Loeffler was a young man, his father ran afoul of the Prussian government and was held as a political prisoner for a number of years, leading to the composer's animosity towards Germany. The records of the Berlin Hochschule fűr Musik list Schöneberg as his birthplace, and both his parents were natives of Berlin, so in all likelihood, Schöneberg is the correct location of his birth. Loeffler was a true cosmopolitan. Loeffler’s father, an expert in agricultural science, traveled the world lecturing. While Loeffler was a child the family lived in Hungary and Russia for periods of time. After his studies at the Hochschule, he went to Paris, which he considered his true musical home. Loeffler was a gifted violinist and studied with the great Joachim in Berlin and with Massart in Paris. In 1881 Charles Martin Loeffler emigrated to the United States of America, where he lived for the remainder of his life, becoming an American Citizen in 1887. He was second concertmaster of the Boston Symphony from 1882 until 1903, and a frequent soloist with the orchestra in his own works as well as the great European concerti. Loeffler was well known and respected in Boston Society, and was a friend of such influential Bostonians as Isabella Stuart Gardner, at whose home he often performed, and John Singer Sargent, whose portrait of Loeffler hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In retirement he settled in Medfield, Massachusetts, and became a gent-leman farmer, although his musical influence continu-ed in Boston and New York. Among other activities, Loeffler served as an advisor to what would ultimately become the Julliard School of Music. After a long and prolific career, including a period as one of the elder statesmen of the American musical scene, Charles Martin Loeffler died at his home in Medfield, Massachusetts, on May 19, 1935.

La Villanelle du diable, Op. 9, which was composed in the summer of 1901 in Dover, Massachusetts. It was origi-nally paired with the work Poem under the title Deux poems pour grand orchester. Deux poems was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra on April 11, 1902. The premiere was conducted by Wilhelm Gericke, who had been conductor of the orchestra from 1885 to 1889. Poem was subsequently revised (1915) and performed as a stand-alone work. La Villanelle du diable was dedicated to Franz Kneisel. The manuscript of this work is missing. The orchestral score was published in 1905 by G. Schirmer, and a version for piano four-hands (arr. Marcel Labey), was published, again by G. Schirmer, in 1908. La villanelle du diable is a reworking of the third of Loeffler's Rhapsodies pour voix, clari-nett, alto et piano, composed in the summer of 1898. The text is from Les névroses of Maurice Rollinat and deals with the devil dancing around at night and creating mischief in the mortal world. The clarinet part of the Trois Rhapsodies was intended for Loeffler’s dear friend, Léon Pourtau, who was tragically killed while sailing for Europe on the ocean liner Le Bourgogne in July 1898. The Trois Rhapsodies are dedicated to the memory of Pourtau. There is no record of a performance of this work during Loeffler’s lifetime. This music was obviously important to him, as he set about almost immediately in re-writing it, resulting in La Villanelle du diable, and what has become Loeffler's best known work, his Deux Rhapsodies for Hautbois, alto et piano (1901), which are revisions of the first two movements of Trois Rhapsodies. La Villanelle du diable is cast in a single movement marked Presto (il piu possible). The orchestration is brilliant and evocative, relying heavily on the harp throughout and also making use of organ in one section of the piece. This work is decidedly programmatic, using Rollinat’s poem as a basis for the program. Loeffler quoted the tune La carmagnole (1793), a tune from the era of the French Revolution, and also quoted Gregorian chant, as was his penchant thought his compositions. This fascinating work has never been recorded professionally. An internet search performed in May 2009 revealed no performances of this work after 1931. La Villanelle du diable is a piece whose return to the concert stage is long overdue.

Lynn Thompson, Assistant Professor of Music Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois
May 2009

The performance parts are available from Benjamin, Hamburg. Reprint of a copy from the music library of the Münchner Stadt-Bibliothek, Munich