Henry Dehlinger

the love song

of j. alfred

prufrock

 

A Rhapsody for Voice and Orchestra

 

2017

22'

Music by Henry Dehlinger
Words by T. S. Eliot with an epigraph from Dante's Inferno | Click to read text

Electronic Realization



Dedication

To Adelaide Whitaker and composed for soprano Danielle Talamantes.

Premiere

TBA

Notes

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is contemporary composer Henry Dehlinger's reimagining of T. S. Eliot's (1888-1965) poetic masterpiece. Composed as a sweeping rhapsody for soprano solo and orchestra, it suggests the symphonic American vernacular of composers like Howard Hanson, Samuel Barber, and Leonard Bernstein.

Dehlinger wrote Prufrock for the expressive lyric voice of his friend and recording collaborator, Metropolitan Opera soprano Danielle Talamantes (although a tenor or countertenor could also perform the work). As a dramatic monologue, it requires a singer who is present in what is being said, one with a broad dynamic range and flair for dramatic interpretation.

Soprano Danielle Talamantes with Composer Henry Dehlinger

SOPRANO DANIELLE TALAMANTES WITH COMPOSER HENRY DEHLINGER (photo by james trent)
First published in the June 1915 issue of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, this was a new kind of poetry by a poet who was fully awake in his own era—one who expressed a modern sensibility. It reveals the tortured psyche of a prototypical modern person: urbane, eloquent, educated (perhaps overeducated), neurotic, and paralyzed with anxiety. Prufrock, the poem's speaker, seems to be addressing a potential lover, someone with whom he desires to consummate a relationship. But all he can do is ask himself, “Do I dare?” In his mind he can only hear others chattering about his inadequacies.

Dehlinger’s judicious use of polystylism—a growing trend in 21st century music—brings Prufrock to life on the concert stage. Dehlinger sketches out discernible themes and recurring motifs, combining elements from different musical styles and genres that reflect each changing mood of Eliot’s stream of consciousness narrative. Notable among them is the Prufrock Motif that heralds the poem’s famous opening line, “Let us go then, you and I.” These richly harmonized phrases are then woven into a coherent aural tapestry.

In the epigraph to the poem, from Dante’s Inferno, we meet the condemned soul of Guido da Montefeltro who shares his innermost secrets only because he believes his listener will never be able to betray to the world the contents of his confessions from hell. Prufrock, like Guido, is in a hell of his own, albeit an earthly one that is mostly in his head. He, too, will speak to the audience without fear of incurring disgrace.

Dehlinger renders the epigraph in Dante's Italian as a sarabande, a dance in triple meter that originated in 16th century Spanish America as a fusion of Moorish and Mesoamerican dance elements before it spread to Europe and became a slow court dance. Dubbed by the composer, "Questa fiamma," it serves as a short prelude to Prufrock's dramatic monologue.

When crafting the sound of a tonal phrase, God is in the details. As Prufrock muses upon “the mermaids singing, each to each,” for example, Dehlinger combines artificial harmonic glissandi in the cello part—an extended technique that produces the sound of a flock of seagulls—with an ocean drum and tubular bells. Woodwinds, harp, and strings support the ensemble. The result is a remarkable simulation of the sounds of the seashore: ocean waves swell and crash to the cawing of seagulls as the mournful toll of a bell buoy heralds the open sea.

Near the end, brass, percussion, and celesta enter, intensifying the rich orchestral pallete. As the vocal line soars above the din, the Prufrock Motif returns to mark the closing line, "Till human voices wake us, and we drown."

Publisher

Henry Dehlinger Music Publishing

Available Scores

ISMN 979-0-58047-000-3 (conductor's score)
ISMN 979-0-58047-001-0 (set of parts)
ISMN 979-0-58047-002-7 (vocal score)

To contact the publisher, click here

Categories

Vocal, Symphonic

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Upcoming Dates

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