Samuel Barber


Born: 1910   Died: 1981   Country: USA   Period: 20th Century
An open-hearted yet tough romantic, Samuel Barber was one of the few twentieth century American composers to fight for the primacy of lyricism. In his last decades he seemed to be losing the battle, but by the end of the century Barber had posthumously become one of America's most widely performed and recorded composers. In particular, his emotive Violin Concerto and Adagio for Strings have gained a popularity exceeded only by certain works of Read more Aaron Copland.

Barber entered the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia in 1924, where he met future opera composer Gian Carlo Menotti; the two would become lifelong lovers. Barber was an able pianist and a baritone of some talent, but he was an even more precocious composer. His 1933 Curtis graduation piece, the spirited School for Scandal Overture, has become a beloved concert opener.

Barber developed into America's most enduring composer of art songs; most popular is his tender setting for soprano and chamber orchestra of James Agee's Knoxville: Summer of 1915. Barber had unerring taste in texts, and his literary interests led him to compose some allusive short orchestral pieces. Yet he was particularly adept at writing abstract works, such as Music for a Scene from Shelley. Many of these are in large forms: two symphonies, one string quartet (from which was drawn the Adagio for Strings, first popularized by Arturo Toscanini), an ambitious piano sonata, and one concerto each for violin, cello, and piano. While following traditional formats, they are propelled by a dramatic expressivity that hadn't been fashionable since Sibelius. Equally direct in their emotional content are his three Essays for Orchestra, the second being the best crafted and most acclaimed.

Barber would have seemed an ideal composer for the stage, but he had limited success in that realm. Medea, a 1947 dance score for Martha Graham, has found greater longevity in orchestral excerpts. His 1958 Vanessa garnered him the first of two Pulitzer Prizes (the second was for his Piano Concerto), but, like most other American operas, it quickly dropped out of sight. Barber wrote Anthony and Cleopatra to open the new Metropolitan Opera House in 1966, but critical reaction was so hostile that he produced very little during his remaining 15 years. Barber was too conservative to be fashionable; his harmony could be astringent, but his tonality remained secure, his rhythms were strong and clear, and he was not above writing a good melody. Read less
American Classics - Barber: Orchestral Works Vol 1 / Alsop
Release Date: 06/13/2000   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559024   Number of Discs: 1
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Barber: Piano Concerto, Die Natali / Alsop, Prutsman
Release Date: 10/22/2002   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559133   Number of Discs: 1
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American Classics - Barber: Knoxville - Summer Of 1915, Essays For Orchestra
Release Date: 05/18/2004   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559134   Number of Discs: 1
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American Classics - Barber: Capricorn Concerto / Alsop
Release Date: 02/22/2005   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559135   Number of Discs: 1
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Bernstein: Serenade After Plato's Symposium;  Bloch, Barber / Gluzman, Neschling
Release Date: 11/24/2009   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 1662   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Agnus Dei, Op. 11

Browse 51-67 of 67 Available Recordings
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  • 51.
    The Best Of Barber - Adagio For Strings, Agnus Dei, Etc
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80632 Release Date: 10/28/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Arietha Lockhart,  Jon Kimura Parker,  Sylvia McNair,  Robert McDuffie
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw,  Yoel Levi,  Leonard Slatkin
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robert Shaw Festival Singers,  Atlanta Symphony Orchestra,  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
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  • 52.
    Transcriptions Vol 1 / Laurence Equilbey, Accentus
    Label: Naive   Catalog: 4947 Release Date: 08/19/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franck Krawczyck,  Hugo Wolf,  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Solange Añorga,  Nicholas Kern,  Pierre Jeannot,  Catherine Ravenne  ... 
    Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
    CD: $17.99
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  • 53.
    À La Gloire De Dieu / The Sixteen
    Label: Coro   Catalog: 16013 Release Date: 01/01/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Francis Poulenc,  Michael Tippett,  Igor Stravinsky,  Samuel Barber  ... 
    Performer:  Libby Crabtree,  Carys-Anne Lane,  Sally Bruce-Payne,  Neil MacKenzie  ... 
    Conductor:  Harry Christophers
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra,  The Sixteen
    CD: $17.99
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  • 54.
    In The Beginning: Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber
    Label: Linn Records   Catalog: 117 Release Date: 02/27/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Aaron Copland,  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Sally Bruce-Payne,  Susan [Soprano Vocal] Hamilton
    Conductor:  Ben Parry
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dunedin Consort
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  • 55.
    Barber: Choral And Organ Works
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 7145 Release Date: 08/18/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Jeremy Filsell
    Conductor:  Timothy Brown
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge University Chamber Choir
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  • 56.
    Images Of Christ / John Rutter, Cambridge Singers
    Label: Collegium Records   Catalog: 124 Release Date: 02/29/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Anton Bruckner,  William Byrd,  Pablo Casals  ... 
    Conductor:  John Rutter
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Singers
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  • 57.
    Two Thousand Years - Music From The Major Television Series
    Label: Conifer   Catalog: 51353 Release Date: 11/09/1999   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Romanos the Melodist,  John Tavener,  Orlando de Lassus,  Henryk Mikolaj Górecki  ... 
    Performer:  Nigel Short,  Bruce Russell,  Robert Chilcott,  Philip Lawson  ... 
    Conductor:  Oleg Yanchenko,  Richard Marlow,  Adrian Leaper,  Richard Westenburg  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Madrigal Ensemble of Moscow,  King's Singers,  Cambridge Trinity College Choir  ... 
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  • 58.
    Serene Journeys through Classical Music
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 1608 Release Date: 09/22/1998   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn,  William Henry Harris,  Peter Hallock,  William Byrd  ... 
    Performer:  Carol Rosenberger,  Todd Wilson,  Eric Plutz,  Mark Kruczek  ... 
    Conductor:  Donald Pearson,  Dennis Keene,  Gerard Schwarz,  Zdenek Macal  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Denver St. John's Episcopal Cathedral Choirs,  Voices of Ascension,  Ascension Music Orchestra  ... 
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  • 59.
    American Adagios
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80503 Release Date: 08/05/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber,  George Gershwin,  Aaron Copland,  Christopher Rouse  ... 
    Performer:  Arietha Lockhart,  Robert McDuffie,  Carol Wincenc,  Paul Edmund-Davies
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw,  Erich Kunzel,  Yoel Levi,  Christoph Eschenbach  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robert Shaw Festival Singers,  Cincinnati Pops,  Atlanta Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 60.
    Barber's Adagio
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 68758 Release Date: 05/20/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  David Pizarro,  Kazuhide Isomura,  Kikuei Ikeda,  Peter Oundjian  ... 
    Conductor:  Kenneth Slowik,  Kalman Opperman,  Richard Marlow,  Charles Munch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Smithsonian Chamber Players,  Tokyo String Quartet,  Kalman Opperman Clarinet Choir  ... 
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  • 61.
    Agnus Dei
    Label: Erato   Catalog: 14634 Release Date: 02/18/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giovanni Palestrina,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Gabriel Fauré,  John Tavener  ... 
    Performer:  Rebecca Hirsch,  Thomas Herford,  Eamonn Dougan,  Matthew Beale  ... 
    Conductor:  Edward Higginbottom
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Oxford New College Choir,  Capricorn
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  • 62.
    The Dale Warland Singers - Cathedral Classics
    Label: American Choral Catalog   Catalog: 120 Release Date: 07/14/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Herbert Howells,  Gregorio Allegri,  Samuel Barber,  Frank Martin
    Performer:  Patricia Thompson,  Dean Palermo,  Julie Ann Olson,  Brian Newhouse  ... 
    Conductor:  Dale Warland
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dale Warland Singers
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  • 63.
    Evocation Of The Spirit / Shaw, Robert Shaw Festival Singers
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80406 Release Date: 03/28/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frank Martin,  Arnold Schoenberg,  Samuel Barber,  Arvo Pärt  ... 
    Performer:  Donna Carter
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robert Shaw Festival Singers
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  • 64.
    Bernstein: Chichester Psalms; Barber, Copland / Matthew Best
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 66219 Release Date: 11/12/1993   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Aaron Copland,  Leonard Bernstein,  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Catherine Denley,  Rachel Masters,  Gary Kettel,  Thomas Trotter  ... 
    Conductor:  Matthew Best
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Corydon Singers
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  • 65.
    Sing We Merrily - Choral Music From St John's Cathedral
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3125 Release Date: 12/11/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Weaver,  Gerald Near,  Philip E. Baker,  Donald Pearson  ... 
    Performer:  Eric Plutz,  Tom Blomster,  Alex Komodore
    Conductor:  Donald Pearson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Denver St. John's Episcopal Cathedral Choirs
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  • 66.
    100 Best Adagio Voices
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 64292 Release Date: 09/22/0009   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  George Frideric Handel,  Giovanni Battista Pergolesi  ... 
    Performer:  Natalie Dessay,  Philippe Jaroussky,  Toby Spence,  Barbara Hendricks  ... 
    Conductor:  Louis Langrée,  Emmanuelle Haïm,  Sir Neville Marriner,  Andrew Parrott  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert D'Astrée,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Taverner Players  ... 
    CD: $19.99
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  • 67.
    Label: Abc Classics   Catalog: 4812176 Release Date: 11/06/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Juan Gutierrez de Padilla,  Traditional,  Vladimir Vavilov,  Samuel Barber  ... 
    Performer:  Larissa [Soprano Vocal] Kovalchuk,  Christina Leonard,  Anna Sandstrom,  Paul Dyer  ... 
    Conductor:  Paul Dyer
    CD: $18.99
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