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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.



The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is contemporary classical music composer Henry Dehlinger’s adaptation of T. S. Eliot's (1888-1965) poetic masterpiece. Written especially for the expressive lyric voice of internationally acclaimed soprano Danielle Talamantes—the composer’s friend and recording collaborator—it is a sweeping rhapsody for voice and orchestra that suggests the symphonic American vernacular of composers like Howard Hanson, Samuel Barber, and Leonard Bernstein.

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 this central tension and bring Prufrock to life on the concert stage, Dehlinger utilizes a compositional style rooted in polystylism—a growing trend in 21st century classical music. He 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.

At the beginning of the poem, Eliot places an epigraph from Dante’s Inferno. There, the condemned soul of Guido da Montefeltro confesses his sin to Dante because he is assured that Dante would be unable 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 was calibrated to Talamantes’ vocal genius. The high note is sustained over six measures, mostly in septuple 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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