Philip Hale's Boston Symphony Programme Notes: Historical, Critical, and Descriptive Comment on Music and Composers

By John N. Burk; Philip Hale | Go to book overview
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CHARLES MARTIN
LOEFFLER

(Born at Mühlhausen [ Alsace], January 30, 1861;
died at Medfield, Mass., May 19, 1935)


"A PAGAN POEM" (AFTER VIRGIL), OP. 14, FOR
ORCHESTRA, PIANOFORTE, ENGLISH HORN,
AND THREE TRUMPETS OBBLIGATI

THE MUSIC of the Pagan Poem is highly imaginative. Its pages are pages of beauty and passion. The strangeness of the opening is not forced or experimental. The composer himself first saw in his mind's eye the scene and heard the sorcerer's chant. And here is no love song of familiar type given to caterwauling 'cellos. There is no conventional lament of approved crape and tears. A dolorous theme, broadly and nobly thought, is sung by the English horn. The spell works. Daphnis now hastens toward the long empty and expectant arms. There is frantic and amorous exultation.

In this instance a rich and rare orchestral dress covers a well shaped and vigorous body.

This tone poem was suggested to Mr. Loeffler by certain verses in the eighth Eclogue of Virgil, which is sometimes known as "Pharmaceutria" (the Sorceress). The Eclogue, dedicated to Pollio, was written probably in 39 B.C. It consists of two love songs, that of Damon and that of Alphesibœus. Each song has ten parts, and these parts are divided by a recurring burden or refrain. Alphesibœus tells of the love incantation of a Thessalian girl, who by the aid of magical spells endeavors to bring back to her cottage her truant lover Daphnis. Virgil

-[184]-

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