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Samuel Barber

Biography

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: Choral Music
Release Date: 08/29/2006   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559053   Number of Discs: 1
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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: Souvenirs; Menotti: Sebastian, Amahl And The Night Visitors / Schenck
Release Date: 01/04/1993   Label: Koch International Classics  
Catalog: 7005   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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Bernstein: Arias And Barcarolles; Barber, Diamond / Schwarz, Seattle Symphony
Release Date: 04/24/2012   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559709   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Songs (4), Op. 13: no 3, Sure on this Shining Night

Browse 1-25 of 32 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Some Other Time / Zuill Bailey, Lara 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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  • 2.
    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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  • 3.
    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
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  • 4.
    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
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  • 5.
    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  ... 
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  • 6.
    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
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  • 7.
    Secrets Of The Old - Complete Songs Of Samuel Barber
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 435867 Release Date: 06/10/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  John Browning,  Cheryl Studer,  Thomas Hampson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String Quartet
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  • 8.
    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
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  • 9.
    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,  Håkan Hardenberger,  Eckart Haupt  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Tilson Thomas,  Peter Schreier
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  • 10.
    Summertime
    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
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  • 11.
    Fast Cats And Mysterious Cows - Songs From America
    Label: Virgin Classics   Catalog: 86363 Release Date: 10/20/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Aaron Copland,  Samuel Barber,  James D'Angelo,  Ned Rorem  ... 
    Performer:  Matthew Schwinghammer,  Susan Manoff,  Patricia Petibon,  Rebecca Prosser  ... 
    Conductor:  James Litton
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  American Boychoir
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  • 12.
    American Classics - American Anthem - Ives, Copland, Barber, Rorem / Nathan Gunn
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 95226 Release Date: 06/30/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Aaron Copland,  John Jacob Niles,  Lee Hoiby,  Charles Ives  ... 
    Performer:  Kevin Murphy,  Nathan Gunn
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  • 13.
    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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  • 14.
    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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  • 15.
    Songs Of Innocence - Britten, Barber, Ives, Handel, Warlock, Etc / Swait, Bowman, Plant
    Label: Signum U.k.   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
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  • 16.
    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
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  • 17.
    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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  • 18.
    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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  • 19.
    Barber: Knoxville, Etc;  Copland / Tilson Thomas, Hendricks
    Label: Emi Classics Encore   Catalog: 45287 Release Date: 03/21/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Aaron Copland,  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Christine Pendrill,  Maurice Murphy,  Barbara Hendricks
    Conductor:  Michael Tilson Thomas
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 20.
    The Diva Live
    Label: Transart Live   Catalog: 110 Release Date: 08/02/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Joseph Brackett,  Traditional,  Richard Rodgers,  Aaron Copland  ... 
    Performer:  Bruno Fontaine,  Wilhelmina Fernandez
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  • 21.
    The Sublime Voice Of James Rainbird
    Label: Priory Records   Catalog: 5005 Release Date: 12/28/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Andrzej Panufnik,  Samuel Barber,  John Ireland  ... 
    Performer:  James Rainbird,  Michael Stuckey
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  • 22.
    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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  • 23.
    Barber: The Songs / Studer, Hampson, Browning, Emerson Quartet
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 000338002 Release Date: 10/12/2004   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Cheryl Studer,  John Browning,  Thomas Hampson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String Quartet
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  • 24.
    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: $16.99
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  • 25.
    Debut - American Anthem - From Ragtime To Art Song / Gunn
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 73160 Release Date: 05/18/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Bolcom,  Gene Scheer,  Aaron Copland,  John Jacob Niles  ... 
    Performer:  Nathan Gunn,  Kevin Murphy
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