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

Work: Songs (4), Op. 13: no 3, Sure on this Shining Night

Browse 1-25 of 28 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Simple Gifts: American and British Art Songs of the 20th Century
    Label: Msr   Catalog: 1555 Release Date: 02/09/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Samuel Barber,  Aaron Copland,  Scott Nathan Louis  ... 
    Performer:  Andrew Henderson,  Katherine Wessinger,  Helen [Alto Vocals] Karloski
    Conductor:  Mary Wannamaker Huff
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    CD: $11.99
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  • 2.
    For The Love Of Nature
    Label: Willowhayne Records   Catalog: 19736 Release Date: 11/06/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Roger Quilter,  Herbert Howells,  Samuel Barber,  Michael Tippett  ... 
    Performer:  Stella Pendrous,  Jake [Countertenor Vocal] Barlow,  Mark Hartt-Palmer
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  • 3.
    Barber: Choral Music / Spicer, Brimingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir
    Label: Somm   Catalog: 152 Release Date: 09/01/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Ben Kennedy
    Conductor:  Paul Spicer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir,  Birmingham Conservatoire Brass Ensemble
    CD: $18.99
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  • 4.
    From The History Of The Tchaikovsky Competition Phonodocuments
    Label: Melodiya   Catalog: 1002349 Release Date: 08/14/2015   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Dmitri Kabalevsky,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Frédéric Chopin,  Dmitri Shostakovich  ... 
    Performer:  Naum Shtarkman,  Stefan Ruha,  Victoria Stefanescu,  Lev Vlasenko  ... 
    Conductor:  Boris Khaikin,  Neeme Järvi,  Kiril Kondrashin,  Fuat Mansurov  ... 
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  • 5.
    Some Other Time / Bailey, Downes
    Label: Steinway & Sons   Catalog: 30025 Release Date: 04/29/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Leonard Bernstein,  Samuel Barber,  Lukas Foss,  Aaron Copland
    Performer:  Zuill Bailey,  Lara Downes
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  • 6.
    The Lyric Clarinet
    Label: Ravello   Catalog: 7886 Release Date: 02/25/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Carlos Guastavino,  John Woods Duke,  Claude Debussy,  Francis Poulenc  ... 
    Performer:  F. Gerard Errante,  Philip Fortenberry,  Voltaire Verzosa,  D. Gause
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  • 7.
    Stopping By / Kyle Bielfield
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3445 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Amy Marcy Beach,  Samuel Barber,  Ned Rorem,  John Woods Duke  ... 
    Performer:  Kyle Bielfield,  Lachlan Glen,  Michael Samis
    CD: $17.99
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  • 8.
    Samuel Barber - An American Romantic / Johnson, Conspirare
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 807522 Release Date: 09/12/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Conductor:  Craig Hella Johnson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conspirare
    SuperAudio CD: $19.99
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  • 9.
    Imaginary Landscapes - Sounds of America [20-CD Set]
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 44290 Release Date: 07/03/2012   Number of Discs: 20
    Composer:  John Philip Sousa,  Scott Joplin,  Ferde Grofé,  George Gershwin  ... 
    Performer:  Joshua Rifkin,  Ralph Grierson,  Richard Rodney Bennett,  Barry Tuckwell  ... 
    Conductor:  Timothy Foley,  George Sponhaltz,  Felix Slatkin,  Ferde Grofé  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Great American Main Street Band,  Southland Stingers,  Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $58.99
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  • 10.
    Despite & Still / Melissa Fogarty
    Label: Cd Baby   Catalog: 5637848434 Release Date: 10/20/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Melissa Fogarty,  Marc Peloquin
    CD: $13.99
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  • 11.
    Secrets Of The Old - Complete Songs Of Samuel Barber
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 435867 Release Date: 06/07/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  John Browning,  Cheryl Studer,  Thomas Hampson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String Quartet
    CD: $24.99
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  • 12.
    Songbook / Tewkesbury Abbey Schola Cantorum Trebles
    Label: Delphian   Catalog: 34097 Release Date: 01/10/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arvo Pärt,  Henry Purcell,  Gabriel Jackson,  Howard Skempton  ... 
    Performer:  Carleton Etherington,  Benjamin Nicholas
    CD: $19.99
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  • 13.
    Barbara Hendricks Sings Bach, Barber & Copland
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 29355 Release Date: 09/14/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Samuel Barber,  Aaron Copland,  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Barbara Hendricks,  Maurice Murphy,  Hĺkan Hardenberger,  Eckart Haupt  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael T. Thomas,  Peter Schreier
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  • 14.
    Label: Champs Hill Records   Catalog: 8 Release Date: 05/25/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Gershwin,  Sir Edward Elgar,  Gabriel Fauré,  Hector Berlioz  ... 
    Performer:  Graham Johnson,  Felicity Lott
    CD: $17.99
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  • 15.
    American Classics - Barber: String Quartet, Serenade, Songs / Allen, Endellion Quartet
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 95232 Release Date: 06/30/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Thomas Allen,  Roger Vignoles,  Eric Cutler,  Bradley Moore
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Endellion String Quartet
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  • 16.
    On The Wings Of Song / Elly Ameling, Rudolf Jansen
    Label: Philips   Catalog: 422333 Release Date: 08/05/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Kosaku Yamada,  Maurice Ravel,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Rudolf Jansen,  Elly Ameling,  Michel Dispa
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  • 17.
    Songs Of Innocence - Britten, Barber, Ives, Handel, Warlock, Etc / Swait, Bowman, Plant
    Label: Signum Classics   Catalog: 128 Release Date: 07/29/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Peter Warlock,  William Boyce,  Michael Flanders  ... 
    Performer:  James Bowman,  Andrew Swait,  Andrew Plant,  Andrew Plant
    CD: $17.99
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  • 18.
    Samuel Barber: Songs / Gerald Finley, Julius Drake
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 67528 Release Date: 11/13/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Julius Drake,  Gerald Finley,  Jennifer Stumm,  Nadia Wijzenbeek  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aronowitz Ensemble
    CD: $21.99
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  • 19.
    Roberta Alexander Sings Barber - Vanessa, Andromache
    Label: Etcetera Records   Catalog: 1145 Release Date: 10/01/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Roberta Alexander
    Conductor:  Edo de Waart
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 20.
    American Classics - Barber: Choral Music
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8559053 Release Date: 08/29/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Conductor:  Douglas Lawrence
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ormond College Choir
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  • 21.
    Label: Centaur Records   Catalog: 2679 Release Date: 10/26/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber,  Antonín Dvorák,  Georges Bizet,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Rick Bogard,  John Solomons
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  • 22.
    Flying Solo / Jens Lindemann
    Label: Marquis   Catalog: 81295 Release Date: 06/24/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Fernando J. Obradors,  Thomas "Fats" Waller,  Robert Parissi,  Frédéric Chopin  ... 
    Performer:  Jens Lindemann,  Jennifer Snow,  Bradford Ellis
    CD: $15.99
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  • 23.
    I Will Breathe A Mountain / Horne, Katz, Tokyo Quartet
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 68771 Release Date: 03/10/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Leonard Bernstein,  William Bolcom,  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Martin Katz,  Marilyn Horne,  Sadao Harada,  Kazuhide Isomura  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tokyo String Quartet
    CD: $17.99
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  • 24.
    Sure On This Shining Night / Robert White, Samuel Sanders
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 66920 Release Date: 04/10/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Amy Marcy Beach,  John Musto,  Horatio Parker,  Victor Herbert  ... 
    Performer:  Robert White,  Samuel Sanders
    CD: $21.99
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  • 25.
    Songs With A Touch Of Bass / Stoffel, Masciadri, Frazier
    Label: Aca Digital   Catalog: 20030 Release Date: 10/15/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jean-Baptiste Lully,  Michael Head,  Liza Lehmann,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Milton Masciadri,  David Stoffel,  Ivan Frazier
    On sale! $19.98
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