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
The American Masters - Barber, Corigliano, Bates / Anne Akiko Meyers
Release Date: 09/30/2014   Label: eOne  
Catalog: 7791   Number of Discs: 1
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Barber: Horizon / Barra, Golden, Arioso Wind Quintet, San Diego CO
Release Date: 06/27/1995   Label: Koch International Classics  
Catalog: 7206   Number of Discs: 1
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Barber: The Songs / Studer, Hampson, Browning, Emerson Quartet
Release Date: 10/12/2004   Label: Deutsche Grammophon  
Catalog: 000338002   Number of Discs: 2
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Kirov Classics - Chopiniana, Petrushka, Barber's Adagio, Etc
Release Date: 07/30/2002   Label: Kultur Video  
Catalog: 86   Number of Discs: 1
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Sure On This Shining Night / Robert White, Samuel Sanders
Release Date: 04/10/1997   Label: Hyperion  
Catalog: 66920   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Songs (4), Op. 13: no 3, Sure on this Shining Night

Browse 26-32 of 32 Available Recordings
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  • 26.
    Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Romancero Gitano / Rutenberg, et al
    Label: Rcm   Catalog: 19802 Release Date: 10/20/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Chorbajian,  Morten Lauridsen,  Samuel Barber,  Halsey Stevens  ... 
    Performer:  Jan Sanborn,  Gregory Newton
    Conductor:  Peter Rutenberg
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Los Angeles Chamber Singers
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  • 27.
    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
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  • 28.
    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
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  • 29.
    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
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  • 30.
    Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye / Samuel Ramey, Warren Jones
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 68339 Release Date: 10/01/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Cole Porter,  Paul Bowles,  George Gershwin,  Charles Tomlinson Griffes  ... 
    Performer:  Warren Jones,  Samuel Ramey
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  • 31.
    But Yesterday Is Not Today - The American Art Song 1927-1972
    Label: New World Records   Catalog: 80243 Release Date: 09/17/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Helps,  Samuel Barber,  Theodore Chanler,  Roger Sessions  ... 
    Performer:  Robert Helps,  Bethany Beardslee,  Donald Hassard,  Donald Gramm
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  • 32.
    Presenting Jian Wang - Chopin, Barber, Schumann
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3097 Release Date: 12/11/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Schumann,  Samuel Barber,  Frédéric Chopin
    Performer:  Carol Rosenberger,  Jian Wang
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