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Composer (MIDI)

Samuel Barber (1910-1981); USA

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Samuel Barber

Barber, Samuel (b West Chester, Penn., 1910; d NY, 1981). Amer. composer. Played pf. at age 6 and composed when 7. At 14 entered Curtis Inst. as one of first charter students, studying comp. under Scalero 1925-34, pf. under Isabelle Vengerova 1926-31, and singing under Emilio de Gogorza 1926-30. In 1928 formed a lasting and fruitful friendship with Gian Carlo Menotti. From 1933 his comps. began to be played, notably his setting of Arnold's Dover Beach, in which he sang the bar. part, and his Vc. Sonata, in which he played the pf. In 1935 won a Pulitzer scholarship and in 1936 the Amer. Academy's Prix de Rome. His first sym. was given its f.p. in Rome that year, cond. Molinari. Toscanini cond. of his Adagio for Strings (orig. the slow movement of his str. qt.) and the first Essay for Orchestra in 1938 and in subsequent years of his works were given in NY, Boston, and Philadelphia under Walter, Koussevitzsky, Leinsdorf, Mitropoulos, Ormandy, and Mehta. His 4-act opera Vanessa, to lib. by Menotti, was perf. at the NY Met in 1958 and another opera Antony and Cleopatra, to lib. by Zeffirelli, was commissioned for the opening of the new Metropolitan in the Lincoln Center, NY, in Sept. 1966.

Barber's mus. is in the European traditional line rather than specifically ‘American’. Conservative in idiom, it is melodic, elegant, and brilliant. His lyricism is best heard in Vanessa and in Knoxville: Summer of 1915, for sop. and orch., and his romanticism in Dover Beach, the Vc. Sonata, and the Sym. No.1. His Pf. Sonata, first played by Horowitz, is a bravura work. The operas met with a poor initial response which is in process of being reversed, and the concs. and songs are highly effective. Prin. works:

OPERAS: Vanessa, Op.32 (1957, rev. 1964); A Hand of Bridge, Op.35 (1959); Antony and Cleopatra, Op.40 (1966, rev. 1974).

BALLETS: Medea, Op.23 (1946, rev. as Cave of the Heart, 1947); Souvenirs, Op.28 (1952).

ORCH.: sym. No.1, Op.9 (1936), No.2, Op.19 (1944); Overture to School for Scandal, Op.5 (1931); Music for a Scene from Shelley, Op.7 (1933); Essay No.1, Op.12 (1937), No.2, Op.17 (1942), No.3, Op.47 (1978); Adagio for Strings, Op.11 (1938) (orch. from str. qt. Op.11); Mutations from Bach, brass, timp. (1967); Fadograph of a Yestern Scene, Op.44 (1971).

CONCERTOS: vn., Op.14 (1939); vc., Op.22 (1945); pf., Op.38 (1962); Capricorn Concerto, Op.21 (for chamber orch.) (1944); Canzonetta, ob., str., Op.48 (1977-8).

VOCAL AND CHORAL: Dover Beach, Op.3 (bar. or cont. with str. qt. or str. orch.) (1931); A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map, Op.15, male vv., timp. (1939); Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op.24, sop., orch. (1947, arr. for sop. and chamber orch. 1950); Prayers of Kierkegaard, Op.30, sop., orch. (1954); Andromache's Farewell, Op.39, sop., orch. (1962); Agnus Dei (1967, choral vers. of Adagio for Strings).

CHAMBER MUSIC: Serenade, Op.1, str. qt. (1928, arr. for str. orch. 1944); vc. sonata, Op.6 (1932); str. qt., Op.11 (1936); Excursions, Op.20, pf. (1942-4); pf. sonata, Op.26 (1949); Souvenirs, Op.28, pf., 4 hands (1951, arr. for pf. solo, for 2 pfs. and for orch., 1952); Summer Music, Op.31 (woodwind quintet) (1955); Canzone (Elegy), Op.38a, fl. or vn., pf. (1958).

He also comp. many songs, incl. 10 Hermit Songs, Op.29 to Irish texts (1952-3).

Copyright © 1996 Oxford University Press - By permission of Oxford University Press

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Samuel Barber, Samuel (b West Chester, Penn., 1910; d NY, 1981). Amer. composer. Played pf. at age 6 and composed when... More
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