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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
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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Barber: Antony And Cleopatra / Badea, Hinds, Wells
Release Date: 12/08/1992   Label: New World Records  
Catalog: 80322   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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Work: Hermit Songs, Op. 29

Browse 1-12 of 12 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Melodies Passageres - Barber: Songs / De Pledge, Jeffers
    Label: Quartz Records   Catalog: 2079 Release Date: 02/12/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Stephen de Pledge,  Gweneth-Ann Jeffers
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  • 2.
    Leontyne Price - The Complete Collection of Song & Spiritual Albums
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 794050 Release Date: 01/24/2012   Number of Discs: 12
    Composer:  Samuel Barber,  Gabriel Fauré,  Francis Poulenc,  Richard Strauss  ... 
    Performer:  Leontyne Price,  Samuel Barber,  David Garvey,  Patricia Clark  ... 
    Conductor:  Fritz Reiner,  Erich Leinsdorf,  Thomas Schippers,  Leonard De Paur  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 3.
    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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  • 4.
    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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  • 5.
    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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  • 6.
    Leontyne Price & Samuel Barber - Historic Performances (1953 & 1938)
    Label: Bridge   Catalog: 9156 Release Date: 10/05/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Francis Poulenc,  Samuel Barber,  Henri Sauguet,  Gabriel Fauré  ... 
    Performer:  Leontyne Price,  Samuel Barber
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  • 7.
    Barber: Complete Songs / Hampson, Studer, Browning
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 459506 Release Date: 01/02/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  John Browning,  Thomas Hampson,  Cheryl Studer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Emerson String Quartet
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  • 8.
    Modern American Vocal Works - Premiere Recordings 1950-1953
    Label: Sony Classical Masterworks   Catalog: 60899 Release Date: 06/29/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Virgil Thomson,  Aaron Copland,  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Virgil Thomson,  William C. Smith,  Joseph James,  Clyde S. Turner  ... 
    Conductor:  William Strickland
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Music Quartet,  Dumbarton Oaks Chamber Orchestra
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  • 9.
    Sallie Chisum Remembers Billy The Kid / Bonney, Previn
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 455511 Release Date: 01/27/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Dominick Argento,  Samuel Barber,  Aaron Copland,  André Previn
    Performer:  Barbara Bonney,  André Previn,  Sato Knudsen
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  • 10.
    Lefanu, Kinsella, Wilson, Et Al: Songs / Jones, Martin
    Label: Altarus   Catalog: 9010 Release Date: 02/18/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  James Wilson,  Samuel Barber,  John Buckley,  John Kinsella  ... 
    Performer:  Penelope Price Jones,  Philip Martin
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  • 11.
    Leontyne Price Sings Barber - Knoxville, Hermit Songs
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 61983 Release Date: 05/10/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Samuel Barber,  Leontyne Price
    Conductor:  Thomas Schippers
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra
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  • 12.
    Barber: Knoxville Summer Of 1915, Etc  / Steber, Price
    Label: Cbs Masterworks Portrait   Catalog: 46727 Release Date: 07/28/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Martina Arroyo,  Leontyne Price,  Samuel Barber,  Raphael Hillyer  ... 
    Conductor:  Thomas Schippers,  William Strickland
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  Juilliard String Quartet,  Dumbarton Oaks Chamber Orchestra
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