Thursday, May 26, 2016

Loeffler: Partita for Violin and Piano

Charles Martin Loeffler, 1917
(pencil sketch by John Singer Sargent)
81 years and one week ago today, May 19, 1935, the Alsatian-born American composer Charles Martin Loeffler died in Medford, Massachusetts, at the age of 74. Two and a half weeks later, Odessa-born violinist Jacques Gordon (1899-1948) began recording one of Loeffler's last works, his four-movement Partita of 1930, an unaccountably neglected work of which I can trace no subsequent recording. Gordon's partner in this undertaking was Lee Pattison (1890-1966), better known as one-half of the Maier and Pattison piano duo that was popular during the 1920s. The set was issued by Columbia late in 1936 or early in 1937, and is quite rare, because it was deleted from the catalogue upon CBS's takeover of Columbia in 1939:

Loeffler: Partita for Violin and Piano (1930) and
Loeffler (arr. Gordon) Peacocks, Op. 10, No. 4
Jacques Gordon, violin; Lee Pattison, piano
Recorded June 5, 12, and July 30, 1935
Columbia Masterworks Set No. 275, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 92.60 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 54.43 MB)

The movements of Loeffler's Partita, dedicated to Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, are an Intrada, loosely in the form of a Baroque ouverture à la française, a Sarabande (by Mathieson) with 5 variations, a Divertissement with echoes of tango and ragtime (!), and a Finale des tendres Adieux whose opening reminds me strongly of the last movement of Brahms' first violin sonata, though the musical language is nothing like Brahms.

This recording appears to be Jacques Gordon's only one of a large-scale work for violin and piano. He was much more active in the recording studios as a quartet leader. The Gordon String Quartet made some dozen recordings for Columbia, Schirmer, and Concert Hall; for the last-named label they recorded William Schuman's Third Quartet.


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  2. Thanks for this rarity, Bryan!

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  4. [I deleted my previous reply because of a formatting problem. Sorry!]

    What treat! Surprising that Naxos hasn't gotten around to recording the work. (Their one CD of
    Loeffler's chamber music is terrific.) Gordon not only made the first and apparently only recording; he also edited the work for publication "in accordance with the composer's wishes." See Gordon, CSO concertmaster from 1921-1930, was an interesting fellow. There's a short bio here: (scroll down). According to the bio, "There is a famous account of Jacques Gordon playing his Stradivarius on a Chicago street corner at the beginning of the depression in 1930 to test the attractiveness of his music to the Michigan Avenue public. He is said to have collected $5.61 (the equivalent of more than $50 in current money)." There's a photo on the site of Gordon performing on the street corner. Thanks as always, Bryan--also for the Schuman SQ--and anything else of Gordon's that you turn up will be welcome.

  5. Interesting and idiosyncratic - thank you, Bryan, as ever! Best wishes, Nick

  6. Bryan, I really enjoyed this work. Also very good sound. Thank you.

  7. Bryan,
    This post really exemplifies why your blog is so important. Here is an obscure piece by a nearly forgotten composer. Yet, as this recording makes clear, the disregard of both piece and composer is undeserved. I have listened to the Partita for Violin and Piano at least a dozen times since I downloaded it from your site, and it is simply a wonderful piece. No masterpiece for sure, but just an eminently enjoyable and rewarding piece of classical music. From its Chaussonesque opening movement, to the Baroque-ish 2nd movement, to the Jazz inflected 3rd, and final movement that again displays the French influence (César Franck & Chausson). It is hard to believe that this is the only recording of the piece available, as it would be a welcome addition to the repertoire of many a violin/ piano duos. Thanks for bringing this piece to my attention.