Charles Martin Loeffler
Fantastic Concerto for cello and orchestra (1893)
Loeffler was the assistant concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 21 seasons, from 1882 to 1903. Also a popular soloist with the orchestra who introduced works such as Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole to US audiences, Loeffler's orchestral works of the 1890s helped establish his reputation as a leading composer. One of the first of those works was the Fantastic Concerto, dedicated to Alwin Schroeder. On February 2/3, 1894, Schroeder gave the world premiere performances as soloist with the BSO under Emil Paur, before performing it in Washington, DC, Cambridge, Worcester (1894), and New York (1895). Schroeder and the BSO reprised the concerto in 1898 (Boston, Baltimore, Brooklyn), and in 1907 Schroeder chose it for his solo debut with the Museum Orchestra of Frankfurt, Germany.
It appears that Alwin Schroeder was the only cellist ever to perform the work, and the current whereabouts of the score and orchestral parts are unknown. The only other concerto that Schroeder played with similar frequency was the Saint-Saens No. 1, and only his performances of the Dvorak B minor concerto had an arguably greater impact on Schroeder's reputation as a soloist. In reference to the Loeffler concerto, New York Tribune critic Henry E. Krehbiel summed up the qualities that made Schroeder a significant, trustworthy soloist: "It was played by Mr. Schroeder with the power and brilliancy and absolute certainty that his hearers have learned to expect of him." (Feb. 8, 1895, p. 7)
The Boston reviews of the 1894 premiere were also favorable, for both composer and soloist. The Boston Herald wrote, "Mr. Loeffler is a capital musician, with a thorough knowledge of the art of composition, possessed of good taste in the choice of forms, and a master in orchestration. All these characteristics are shown in his concerto of last evening, and its merits were quickly recognized both by the audience and his fellow-players in the orchestra. The work is in five short movements, which are played without pause, and in the concerto he has made use of some grand and imposing themes, which are treated in a masterly fashion. He introduces a cadenza for the solo ’cello which is full of difficult passages for the player, and demands a perfect mastery of the instrument. Mr. Loeffler was fortunate in having the solo work given to Mr. Alwyn Schroeder, whose playing throughout the concerto was equal to his best efforts in these concerts. The concerto and its performance were alike vastly enjoyed by the audience, and at its conclusion the composer and soloist were alike honored by the audience with a great ovation.” (Feb. 4, 1894, p. 23) Reviews of subsequent performances of the concerto were equally laudatory, although the form of the work was sometimes criticized for being "inchoate" (New York Times, 1895) or "blurred and arbitrary" (Die Musik, 1907), and the cadenza was described by one critic as "really hideous" (New York Herald, 1895).