45 South St, Medfield, MA 02052
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 25 Evans Way, Boston, MA 02115, Stati Uniti
Charles Martin Tornov Loeffler (January 30, 1861 – May 19, 1935) was a German-born American violinist and composer. The portrait of Charles Martin Loeffler links three close friends: Isabella Stewart Gardner, John Singer Sargent, and the sitter, Charles Loeffler, who was a composer and violinist. A month after Fenway Court opened, Gardner invited Sargent to use the Gothic Room as his studio. Sargent painted Loeffler's portrait there in less than three hours, and then presented it to Mrs. Gardner on her birthday. Born in France, Loeffler immigrated to the United States in 1881. He was joint first violinist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, but left to devote himself to composing. A few days after receiving this portrait, Gardner presented a concert of Loeffler's compositions at Fenway Court, including the premiere of his Pagan Poem.
The membership of Boston’s artistic and literary club, the St Botolph Club (1879), the Tavern Club (1884), and the Club of Odd Volume (1887), was derived principally from Harvard graduates who wanted to maintain the ties they developed in the school’s social clubs and fraternities. These private men’s dining clubs also served as safe and convivial spaces where well-to-do gay members of Boston’s cultural establishment could express themselves freely and creatively. The Tavern Club, which had a distinct bohemian aura about it, counted a number of members from Isabella Stewart Gardner’s circle, including George Santayana; librarian Theodore Dwight; musicians Charles Loeffler and Tymoteusz Adamowski; and Thomas Russell Sullivan. Tavern Club theatricals, directly descended from the cross-dressing antics of the Hasty Pudding Club, were legendary.
Charles Martin Loeffler was born Martin Karl Löffler on January 30, 1861, in Schöneberg near Berlin to parents who were both from Berlin families. The family moved repeatedly, first to Alsace, and then to Smila, 200 km from Kiev, while Loeffler was still a small child, next to Debrecen, in Hungary, where his father Karl taught at the Royal Academy of Agriculture. Later he lived in Switzerland. Karl was an agricultural chemist who espoused republican ideals in writing as a journalist under the name "Tornow" or "Tornov". When his son was about twelve years old, Prussian authorities arrested Karl Loeffler and he died of a stroke in prison. Throughout his career, Charles Martín Loeffler claimed to have been born in Mulhouse, Alsace; in his lifetime, articles were published dissecting his "typically Alsatian" temperament. He sometimes used his father's pseudonyms as one of his middle names.
Charles Martin Loeffler, by John Singer Sargent, 1903
Loeffler decided to become a violinist and studied in Berlin with Joseph Joachim, Friedrich Kiel and Woldemar Bargiel, then with Joseph Massart (and composition with Ernest Guiraud) in Paris. He played with the Pasdeloup Orchestra and in 1881 emigrated to the United States, where he joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra as assistant concertmaster from 1882 to 1903.
Charles Martin Loeffler met Timothee Adamowski when both were with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1885 and the two quickly became friendly rivals. That same years, Loeffler joined the Tavern Club, where he often dined after concerts. On at least one occasion, Loeffler and Adamowski played chamber music at the club in an ensemble that included the painter Dennis Miller Bunker.
Loeffler was on the board of directors of the Boston Opera Company when it started operations in 1908. He first appeared as a violinist-composer with the orchestra in 1891 with the performance of his suite Les Vieilles d'Ukraine, and his works were performed regularly by the Boston Symphony (and by other American orchestra) for the rest of his life. Loeffler became a U.S. citizen in 1887 and eventually resigned from the orchestra to devote himself to composition. He was a friend of Eugène Ysaÿe, Dennis Miller Bunker, and John Singer Sargent (who painted his portrait), also of Gabriel Fauré and Ferruccio Busoni (both of whom dedicated works to him), and later of George Gershwin.
Sometime, when John Singer Sargent met a man he was interested in, he would bring him over to Isabella Stewart Gardner for a visit. One night, for example, Charles Loeffler was the soloist in a performance where he captured the attention of Sargent. Loeffler recalled, "He came into the Artists room that evening and with that irresistible charm of his said a few words which made one rise in one's seld esteem and then arranged for our meeting a few days later at a dinner in a murual friends house (the Gardner's)." This was the beginning of another intimate relationship that resulted in Sargent's portrait of Loeffler. At the same time, Sargent's relationship with Dennis Miller Bunker was heating up and soon Loeffler and Bunker were spending time together, influencing each other's work. Loeffler was best man at Bunker's wedding and Sargent visited Loeffler at his estate in Medfield.
Loeffler eventually married as well, after a 24 year engagement. He was friend with Amy Lowell, who always sent an autographed copy of her latest book to him, and he socialized with other important Bostonians including Eleonora Sears and Thomas Wentworth Higginson.
A man of wide culture and refined taste, Loeffler developed an idiom deeply influenced by contemporary French and Russian music, in the traditions of César Franck, Ernest Chausson and Claude Debussy, and also by Symbolist and "decadent" literature. Loeffler often cultivated unusual combinations of instruments, and was one of the earliest modern enthusiasts for the viola d'amore, which he discovered in 1894 and wrote parts for in several scores as well as arranging much music for it. In his later years he also, unexpectedly, became deeply interested in jazz, and wrote some works for jazz band. His notable students include Arthur Hartmann, Kay Swift, Samuel Gardner and Francis Judd Cooke, who studied with him for two years in Medfield, Massachusetts. Loeffler died in 1935 in Medfield, at the age of 74.
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