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Henry Dehlinger

the love song 

of j. alfred 



A Rhapsody for Voice and Orchestra




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

Electronic Realization

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The National Philharmonic at Strathmore set up the Prufrock Fund in March 2018 to underwrite the orchestral premiere of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in the 2019-20 season. Donations can be made online at:

The goal is to raise $30,000.

The National Phil is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Your donations to the Prufrock Fund are tax-deductible as permissible by law.



An adaptation of the eponymous poem by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is a rhapsody for voice and orchestra by contemporary classical music composer Henry Dehlinger. It embodies a modern musical language that makes use of eclecticism while suggesting the familiar symphonic American vernacular of 20th century composers like Howard Hanson, Samuel Barber, and Leonard Bernstein. It was composed especially for the expressive lyric voice of Metropolitan Opera soprano Danielle Talamantes, the composer’s friend and recording collaborator.

Soprano Danielle Talamantes with Composer Henry Dehlinger


The text, first published in 1915, was an entirely new kind of poetry by a poet who was fully awake in his own era—the modernist era. As author Karen Swallow Prior notes in her essay, When T. S. Eliot Invented the Hipster (The Atlantic, January 4, 2015):

The original cuffed-trouser urbanite on the hunt for authenticity—and undercutting it with his own self-consciousness—was J. Alfred Prufrock...An embodiment of turn-of-the-century angst wrought by a world sucked dry by skepticism, cynicism, and industrialism, Prufrock bears striking similarities to a subculture of mostly white, urban, detached-yet-sensitive young adults at the cusp of our own century. One might say Eliot invented the hipster…

Whatever hipsters are, they cannot be separated from the cultural mood that birthed them or their natural habitat: the city. Neither hipsters nor Prufrock would exist without the modern urban setting that bred their sensibilities. It is in the city that the pulse of a civilization is taken. The cityscape in Eliot’s poem, with its skyline “like a patient etherized upon a table,” is, in fact, as famous as Prufrock, whose emotionally and spiritually unconsummated desire creates the central tension of the poem.

To underscore the tension of Prufrock's "unconsummated desire," Dehlinger utilizes a hybrid voice that synthesizes classical and vernacular styles. He started the composition by sketching out the principle themes and recurring motifs, combining elements from different musical styles and genres. He used the melodic and rhythmic contours of Eliot’s stream of consciousness narrative to dictate mood and melodic character. Notable among them is the Prufrock motif that heralds the poem’s famous opening line, "Let us go then, you and I." These rich vocal and instrumental textures were then woven into a coherent aural tapestry.

At the beginning of the poem, Eliot places an epigraph from Dante’s Inferno. There, in hell, the condemned soul of Guido da Montefeltro confesses his sin to Dante, wrongly assuming it would be impossible for Dante to betray his confession to the world of the living. Sung in the original Italian, the epigraph is musically rendered as a sarabande, a slow, stately dance in triple meter. It is a prelude to the dramatic monologue that follows in which Prufrock reveals with equal candor the burdens of his unmet desire.

Extended techniques, especially for strings, help amplify the emotional content. 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 and Prufrock concludes, "I do not think that they will sing to me."

At the end, brass, percussion, and celesta enter, intensifying the rich orchestral palette. 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." The ending is calibrated to Talamantes’ vocal genius. The high note is sustained over six measures of a scherzo-like dance in 7/8 meter as singer and orchestra build to a magnificent forte fortissimo climax!


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


Vocal, Symphonic

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Support the Prufrock Fund! 

Support the Prufrock Fund! 

Join the National Phil and support the premiere of Henry Dehlinger's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: A Rhapsody for Voice and Orchestra. Composed for soprano Danielle Talamantes.

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