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: 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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American Classics - Barber: Orchestral Works Vol 2 / Alsop
Release Date: 03/20/2001   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559088   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Adagio for Strings, Op. 11

Browse 1-25 of 172 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Charles Munch: The Complete RCA Album Collection
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 516979 Release Date: 10/28/2016   Number of Discs: 86
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Franz Schubert,  Vincent D'Indy  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Artur Rubinstein,  Margaret Roggero,  Leslie Chabey  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Munch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Harvard Glee Club  ... 
    Recommendation
    On sale! $221.98
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  • 2.
    Barber: Adagio for Strings - Bruckner: String Quintet / Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin
    Label: Cugate   Catalog: CGC013 Release Date: 10/14/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber,  Anton Bruckner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Concert House Chamber Orchestra
    SuperAudio CD: $17.99
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  • 3.
    American Classics
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 556702 Release Date: 08/26/2016   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  George Gershwin,  Leonard Bernstein,  Samuel Barber,  Erich Wolfgang Korngold  ... 
    Performer:  Wayne Marshall,  Peter Donohoe,  Hélčne Grimaud,  Sabine Meyer  ... 
    Conductor:  Wayne Marshall,  Simon Rattle,  David Zinman,  Paavo Järvi  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aalborg Symphony Orchestra,  London Sinfonietta,  Baltimore Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $19.99
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  • 4.
    100 Best Classics
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 556480 Release Date: 08/05/2016   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Maurice Ravel,  George Frideric Handel,  Antonio Vivaldi  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Barry Tuckwell,  Mikhail Rudy,  Maria-Joao Pires  ... 
    Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt,  Kent Nagano,  Sir Thomas Beecham,  Alberto Lysy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Lysy,  St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $18.99
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  • 5.
    50 Best Classics
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 556482 Release Date: 08/05/2016   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Maurice Ravel,  George Frideric Handel,  Antonio Vivaldi  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Barry Tuckwell,  Mikhail Rudy,  Maria-Joao Pires  ... 
    Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt,  Kent Nagano,  Sir Thomas Beecham,  Alberto Lysy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Lysy,  St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $12.99
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  • 6.
    Color Me Classical
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002528702 Release Date: 08/05/2016   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Jules Massenet,  Erik Satie,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Ludwig van Beethoven  ... 
    Performer:  Joshua Bell,  Pascal Rogé,  Emma Johnson,  Vladimir Ashkenazy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Music Lab Collective
    CD: $21.99
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  • 7.
    American Classics
    Label: Indesens   Catalog: 78 Release Date: 06/24/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Georges Delerue,  Aaron Copland,  Samuel Barber,  Leonard Bernstein  ... 
    Performer:  Eric Aubier,  Philippe Berrod,  Nicolas Prost,  Laurent Wagschal  ... 
    Conductor:  Sébastien Billard,  Claude Schnitzler,  Fabrice Colas
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Garde Republicaine Orchestra,  Bretagne Symphony Orchestra,  Paris Light Band
    CD: $18.99
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  • 8.
    Fanfares pour cuivres
    Label: Indesens   Catalog: 80 Release Date: 06/24/2016   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Paul Dukas,  Henri Tomasi,  Albert Roussel,  André Jolivet  ... 
    Conductor:  Michel Becquet,  Thierry Caens,  Frederick Talgorn
    CD: $18.99
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  • 9.
    Copland, Barber, Bernstein & Schuman: Orchestral Works / Bernstein, L.A. Philharmonic
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002475402 Release Date: 04/29/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Aaron Copland,  William Schuman,  Samuel Barber,  Leonard Bernstein
    Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
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    CD: $12.99
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  • 10.
    Works For String Orchestra
    Label: Audite   Catalog: 95639 Release Date: 02/12/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arcangelo Corelli,  Gioachino Rossini,  Paul Hindemith,  Dmitri Shostakovich  ... 
    Performer:  Antonio Janigro,  Stefano Passaggio
    Conductor:  Antonio Janigro
    CD: $14.99
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  • 11.
    100 Best Film Classics [warner Classics]
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 553645 Release Date: 01/08/2016   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Alfred Newman,  Richard Strauss,  John T. Williams,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  Ernest Blanc,  Nicolai Gedda,  Gary Hoffman,  Gérard Caussé  ... 
    Conductor:  Paul Bateman,  Rudolf Kempe,  Geoff Love,  Mariss Jansons  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Jean-Marie Leclair,  The Hungarian Quartet,  Il Giardino Armonico  ... 
    CD: $18.99
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  • 12.
    Kirov Classics - The Kirov Ballet [DVD]
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 101798 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Igor Stravinsky,  Samuel Barber,  Adolphe Adam  ... 
    Conductor:  Viktor Fedotov
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Orchestra
    DVD: $29.99
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  • 13.
    Kirov Classics The Kirov Ballet [Blu-ray]
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 101799 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Igor Stravinsky,  Samuel Barber,  Adolphe Adam  ... 
    Conductor:  Viktor Fedotov
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Orchestra
    Blu-ray Video: $39.99
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  • 14.
    The History of Classical Music in 24 Hours
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002403602 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 24
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Pérotin,  Guillaume de Machaut,  John Dunstable  ... 
    Performer:  Konrad Ragossnig,  Charles [Tenor Vocals] Daniels,  Susan Gritton,  Trevor Pinnock  ... 
    Conductor:  Pater Godehard Joppich,  David Munrow,  Josef Ulsamer,  Bruno Turner  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Early Music Consort of London,  Ulsamer-Collegium,  Pro Cantione Antiqua  ... 
    CD: $75.49
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  • 15.
    Classics For The People Vol 1 / Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 94982 Release Date: 10/28/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Richard Wagner,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Sir Edward Elgar  ... 
    Performer:  Wynne Evans,  Donald Maxwell,  Deborah Norman
    Conductor:  Owain Arwel Hughes,  Philip Ellis,  Nick Davies
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  Goldsmith's Choral Union Choir
    CD: $11.99
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  • 16.
    Leonard Bernstein Edition - Concertos & Orchestral Works
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 301330 Release Date: 10/27/2014   Number of Discs: 80
    Composer:  Samuel Barber,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Béla Bartók  ... 
    Performer:  Isaac Stern,  Leonard Bernstein,  Harold Gomberg,  William Heim  ... 
    Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein,  Seiji Ozawa,  Maurice Peress
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  New York Philharmonic members,  Columbia Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    Recommendation
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  • 17.
    James Galway - The Complete RCA Album Collection
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 302633 Release Date: 09/16/2014   Number of Discs: 73
    Composer:  Arthur Smith,  Various,  Traditional,  Stan Lebowsky  ... 
    Performer:  James Galway,  Sylvia,  Marisa Robles,  Phillip Moll  ... 
    Conductor:  Claudio Scimone,  Sir Neville Marriner,  Jörg Faerber,  Eduardo Mata  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Solisti Veneti,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Galway Pops Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $199.98
    CD: $184.99
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  • 18.
    Vibrez! / Cellophony
    Label: Edition Classics   Catalog: 1047 Release Date: 08/19/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Wagner,  Franz Schubert,  Franz Liszt,  Henri Wieniawski  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cellophony
    CD: $18.99
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  • 19.
    The Argo Years / Marriner, Academy of St Martin in the Fields
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002081902 Release Date: 06/03/2014   Number of Discs: 28
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Arcangelo Corelli,  Giuseppe Torelli,  Pietro Antonio Locatelli  ... 
    Performer:  Gwynne Howell,  Philip Langridge,  Anna Reynolds,  Elly Ameling  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chorus,  Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
    Recommendation
    CD: $98.99
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  • 20.
    Leonard Bernstein Collection Vol 1 [59 CDs & 1 DVD]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 2027800 Release Date: 04/22/2014   Number of Discs: 60
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  Leonard Bernstein,  Benjamin Britten  ... 
    Performer:  René Kollo,  Dame Gwyneth Jones,  Kurt Moll,  Hanna Schwarz  ... 
    Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein,  Michael Tilson Thomas,  Kent Nagano
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Concert Choir,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra  ... 
    Recommendation
    CD: $248.99
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  • 21.
    American Journey / Murray, Heisser, Orchestre Poitou Charentes
    Label: Mirare   Catalog: 244 Release Date: 04/08/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber,  Leonard Bernstein,  George Gershwin,  Bernard Herrmann  ... 
    Performer:  Tai Murray,  Jean-François Heisser
    Conductor:  Jean-François Heisser
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Poitou Charentes
    CD: $23.99
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  • 22.
    The American Symphonic Organ / Jean-Baptiste Robin
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 94726 Release Date: 12/10/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Isaac Albeniz,  Béla Bartók,  Georges Bizet  ... 
    Performer:  Jean-Baptiste Robin,  STacey Rishoi
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    CD: $8.99
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  • 23.
    Music Of Steel - Heroic Themes From The Movies
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001871502 Release Date: 07/09/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John T. Williams,  Gioachino Rossini,  Richard Strauss,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  Helen Watts,  Brigitte [Mezzo-Soprano Vocal] Fassbaender,  Helga [Soprano Vocal] Dernesch,  Vera Schlosser  ... 
    Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly,  Sir Georg Solti,  Stanley Black,  Antal Doráti  ... 
    CD: $11.99
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  • 24.
    Clarinet Choir Classics
    Label: Mark Custom Recording Service,   Catalog: 50193 Release Date: 03/26/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn,  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Samuel Barber  ... 
    Performer:  Piccolo Clarinet] Patrick [Clarinet Sikes,  Jenny Maclay,  Michael Tran,  Basset Horn] Keith [Clarinet (Alto) Northover  ... 
    Conductor:  Mitchell Estrin,  David Waybright
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Florida Clarinet Ensemble
    CD: $9.99
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  • 25.
    Phoenix Rising / Margaret Lacy
    Label: Acis Productions   Catalog: 89385 Release Date: 03/12/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Marcel Dupré,  Robert Elmore,  Roy Perry,  Johann Sebastian Bach  ... 
    Performer:  Margaret Lacy
    On sale! $18.98
    CD: $15.99
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