Charles Loeffler- The Lone Prairie

Charles Martin Loeffler (1861-1935) was one of the most respected composers in the United States at the time of his death. He was born in a suburb of Berlin, but a deep antipathy for the Prussian government led to his claiming Alsatian birth after the age of eighteen. Loeffler was originally trained as a violinist and had a distinguished career as an orchestral musician, serving as assistant concertmaster with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for twenty-one seasons. He began composing seriously in the mid-1880s, and after his retirement from the BSO in 1903 divided his time between composition, teaching violin, and overseeing the farm in Medfield, MA which was his retirement home.

The Lone Prairee (scored for tenor saxophone, viola d'amore* and piano) has always been listed in the various catalogues of Loeffler's compositions as being incomplete. Paul Cohen and I found the undated holograph sketches and scores for the piece over fifteen years ago in the Loeffler Collection in the Music Division of the Library of Congress in Washington, D. C. In 1991 the Loeffler scholar Ellen Knight directed me to a little-known five-page holograph of The Lone Prairee which is in effect virtually complete. This second score, although contained in the Loeffler Collection in Washington, is not catalogued.

Although the work is listed by Ellen Knight as "A Paraphrase on Two Western Cowboy Songs," all the holograph material is simply headed "The Lone Prairee." I have traced the two tunes used by Loeffler to an issue of the Wa-Wan Press Magazine (Vol. IV, Spring 1905) where they appeared with harmonizations by Arthur Farwell. Farwell credits Henry Gilbert with collecting the melody of the cowboy song The Lone Prairee and Alice Haskell with collecting the words and tune to the Negro spiritual Moanin' Dove from inhabitants of the South Carolina coastal islands.

Bruce Gbur

Athens, Georgia; September 1993

* Loeffler was an accomplished performer on the viola d'amore and viola. The part in The Lone Prairee is written so that it may also be played on viola.

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