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Samuel Barber

March 9, 1910 - January 23, 1981
born in West Chester, PA, composed during the Modern period
Samuel Barber, one of the most prominent and popular American composers of the mid-20th century, wrote effectively in virtually every genre, including opera, ballet, vocal, choral, keyboard, chamber, and orchestral music. His music is notable for its warmly Romantic lyricism, memorable melodies, and essentially conservative harmonic style, all of which put him at odds with the prevailing modernist aesthetic of his time.

Barber was a member of the first class at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. In 1928, the 17-year-old Gian Carlo Menotti came to study at Curtis, and the two formed a personal and professional bond that would last most of Barber's life. As a student, Barber wrote several works that have entered the repertoire, including the song Dover Beach and Overture to the School for Scandal for orchestra. A fine singer and pianist, as well as composer, much of his work throughout his career featured the voice.

After his graduation from Curtis, Barber wrote a string quartet, the second movement of which became his most famous work, Adagio for Strings. Toscanini performed the Adagio with the NBC Symphony in 1938, and Barber's career was effectively launched. His 1939 Violin Concerto further established his international reputation. During the Second World War, Barber served in the Army Air Corps, where his duties included writing a symphony, his second. Works that followed over the next two decades include the Capricorn Concerto; a Cello Concerto; a Piano Sonata; Knoxville: Summer of 1915, an extended song for voice and orchestra with a text by James Agee; Hermit Songs, for voice and piano, using medieval texts; the chamber opera A Hand of Bridge; Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance, taken from the ballet Cave of the Heart, written for Martha Graham; Summer Music, for wind quintet; the opera Vanessa; and a Piano Concerto. Some of the most prestigious musicians in the world performed his music and became champions of his work, including Leontyne Price, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Eleanor Steber, Martina Arroyo, Vladimir Horowitz, Arturo Toscanini, Eugene Ormandy, Bruno Walter, George Szell, and Serge Koussevitzky.

Barber received his first Pulitzer Prize for Vanessa, which had been commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, had its premiere in 1958, and was hailed as the first great American "grand opera." His 1962 Piano Concerto won the composer his second Pulitzer Prize. The Metropolitan Opera commissioned Barber to write an opera to inaugurate its new opera house in Lincoln Center in 1966. Antony and Cleopatra, based on Shakespeare with a libretto by Franco Zeffirelli, proved to be a failure due at least as much to flaws in the production as to the music. Barber was so devastated by the intensity of the animosity toward his work that he never regained his confidence. He was temperamentally disposed to melancholy, which turned into clinical depression, and although he continued to compose sporadically, he produced few further works of substance.

In spite of the indifference or contempt of critics and the academic establishment, Barber's expressive and directly communicative music has never lacked support and devotion from concert audiences, and he remains one of the best-known and beloved American composers. His Adagio for Strings has achieved iconic status as a profound and universally understood expression of grief, and remains a testament to Barber's ability to write music of the highest artistic standards that can also touch the heart. ~ Stephen Eddins, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Despite And Still: Melissa Fogarty Sings Samuel Barber

Title: Nuvoletta, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 25
Title: Hermit Songs, For Voice & Piano, Op. 29
Title: The Secrets Of The Old, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 13/2
Title: Sure On This Shining Night, Song For Voice & Piano (Also Arr. For Voice, Orch, Chorus & Piano), Op. 13/3
Title: Despite And Still, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano, Op. 41
Title: Songs (2), For Voice & Piano, Op. 18
Title: Songs (3), For Voice & Piano, Op. 10
Title: Songs (3), For Voice & Piano, Op. 45
x

Track List: Barber: Adagio For Strings; Violin Concerto; Knoxville: Summer 1915

Title: Adagio For Strings (Or String Quartet; Arr. From 2nd Mvt. Of String Quartet), Op. 11
Title: Knoxville: Summer Of 1915, For High Voice & Orchestra (Rev. For Voice & Chamber Orchestra), Op. 24
Title: Violin Concerto, Op. 14
Title: The School For Scandal, Overture For Orchestra, Op. 5
Title: Essay For Orchestra, Op. 12
Title: Medea's Meditation And Dance Of Vengeance (from "Medea"), Op. 23a
x

Track List: Barber: The Songs

Disc 1
Title: A Slumber Song of the Madonna, for voice & organ
Title: There's Nae Lark, for voice & piano
Title: Love at the Door, song for voice & piano
Title: Serenade, For String Quartet Or String Orchestra, Op. 1
Title: Love's Caution, song for voice & piano
Title: Night Wanderers, song for voice & piano
Title: Of That So Sweet Imprisonment, song for voice & piano
Title: Strings in the Earth and Air, song for voice & piano
Title: The Beggar's Song, song for voice & piano
Title: In the Dark Pinewood, song for voice & piano
Title: Songs (3), for voice & piano, Op. 2
Title: Songs (3), For Voice & Piano, Op. 10
Title: Songs (4), For Voice & Piano, Op. 13
Title: Dover Beach, for baritone (or mezzo-soprano) & string quartet, Op. 3
Disc 2
Title: Songs (2), For Voice & Piano, Op. 18
Title: Nuvoletta, Song For Voice & Piano, Op. 25
Title: Mélodies passagères (5), songs for voice & piano, Op. 27
Title: Hermit Songs, For Voice & Piano, Op. 29
Title: Despite And Still, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano, Op. 41
Title: Songs (3), For Voice & Piano, Op. 45
x

Track List: Capricorn: The Samuel Barber Collection

Title: Capricorn Concerto, For Flute, Oboe, Trumpet & Strings, Op. 21
Title: Canzone (Elegy), For Flute & Piano (arr. From 2nd Mvt. Of The Piano Concerto), Op. 38a
Title: Fadograph Of A Yestern Scene, For Orchestra (after Joyce: "Finnegan's Wake"), Op. 44
Title: Medea's Meditation And Dance Of Vengeance (from "Medea"), Op. 23a
Title: Adagio For Strings (Or String Quartet; Arr. From 2nd Mvt. Of String Quartet), Op. 11
Title: Souvenirs, Suite From The Ballet
Title: Hermit Songs, For Voice & Piano, Op. 29
Title: To Be Sung On The Water, For 4 Voices, Op. 42/2
Title: The Lovers, For Baritone, Chorus & Orchestra, Op. 43
Title: Summer Music, For Wind Quintet, Op. 31
x

Track List: Samuel Barber: Piano Concerto; Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance

Comments

One of the greatest and intense melodies I have ever enjoyed . . .
lindengould
Over 30 years ago, listening casually to the radio, this piece started to be played. Like others, here, I was utterly transfixed - completely disabled from doing anything but listen to this unspeakably beautiful melody wrapped in its intense harmony. It quickly became one of my favorites. About 15 years later, I transcended again when I heard this set to the Agnus Dei. I had the pleasure of offering this in an ensemble but just a few years after that and will do so again in a few evenings.
tomandlonnie
My first awareness of Adagio for Strings occurred about two years ago, at the finish of the funeral for my older brother. It galvanized my thoughts to memories of his life and his effect upon mine. I was transfixed.
sacredfun6
That it was composed by someone so young is truly awesome.. a profound piece of music.
The first time I heard Adagio for Strings I was totally taken and transported to a state of mind where sadness and happiness blended together perfectly. Years later I was cast in a ballet choreographe d to Mr. Barber's Masterpiece and while in performance again I was transported, this time to an even greater state where I wasn't longer aware of where I was and what was happening. It was just me and this amazing composition, it was the applause of the audience what brought me back.
darcie29tudo r
One of the most peaceful and contemplativ e works ever written
jspalo
So sad yet so moving.
I first heard "Adagio" several years ago; I was moved. I was delighted to hear that his birthplace was in my home state of Pennsylvania . Curiously, as I write this comment, "Adagio" is playing!
...contempt of critics and the academic establishmen t ,
Yeah...they don't like the really good s**t...that moves U emotionally or spiritually! It must be intellectual . Hide ure tears critics---we all know U R crying on the inside!!!
Nice work with that song it reminds me of platoon good movie
michelekazar i a n
50 years later, I too was moved, by Jason Dillinger's story. Thank you.
This piece was used in the movie Platoon during Sgt. Elias' slow motion death scene.
I played this in MD all state orchestra in 1987 and remember the conductor telling us a story of rehearsing this piece with an orchestra when they learned that JFK had been killed. He told us that everyone had sat there in stunned silence until one of the musicians began to spontaneousl y play and everyone just followed without discussing it. We all found that story pretty moving and performing it on stage the next night was for me one of my most profound emotional experiences with music.
wb201822
As a seed on my Samuel Barber station, Arthur Rubenstein's genius with Chopin appears from time to time, and I am still awed by the fact the man lived a block away from my family when he was in Los Angeles...so lucky for us!
I thank you for your music and American salutes you for your hard work.
Breathe taking
stephen.walk e r 8 2
Simply stunning piece of work.
Always a classic. Every time I hear this I picture the scene from "Platoon"
I always weep when ever I hear it. I'm crying now.
I get goosebumps every time I hear Adagio for strings. Truly a moving and remarkable piece...
anne.pacelli
Sadly, here in Connecticut, still reeling from the unspeakable violence against the innocent elementary school children, their caregivers and the mother of the killer, NPR happened to play this that day, so fitting and poignant. Although the version was actually the Agnus Dei with vocals, this piece has ripped my soul apart for many years. Samuel Barber will never know how his music speaks to us and to those emotions that elude speech, only his Adagio can bring us peace as we grapple with loss.
Adagio for Strings is unmistakable and indelible.
I learned of adagio for strings in Iraq it was introduced to me by my friend who passed before the end of the deployment I was able to assemble a few of my good friends and myself to play it for him at his funeral if he heard it we made him proud
adagio for strings was introduced to me by my best friend,calvi n . w e were perhaps 25,standing in the oakland record store where we worked--i'm going to play something for you. i thinkYOU will like this and proceeded to wreak a quiet havoc upon my soul with this music. and as i stood there in the middle of the aisle,tears streaming down my face,i am sure that i loved my friend as never before.he is gone now vanished in th emaelstrom of aids and crack that was the 80's.on that day he saw into my
Very nice indeed.
At 21 he was at his creative zenith like most great artist their best work is done when they are very young and have not been inundated with the traditions of the discipline. This is a most beautiful piece up there with Mozart, Bach and the greats of the genre. A truly blessed piece of music.
addisonblack e 1
Adagio for Strings has been a favorite of mine for years.
I am amazed at how many movies the song has been in over the years.
jdherschberg
Music from heaven. One of the most powerful pieces ever written. Gorgeous. Just gorgeous.
I just can't believe he wrote it in Paris when he was 21. 21!!!!! really Good grief .What was he going through. I wonder.... Was this a sad piece of music for him? Or just a lot of beauty he put in to tone? Wow! It gets me every time.
14739578
Shows a Man can show his emotions through Muisc
There are a handful of brilliant pieces of music created throughout one's lifetime.The Adagio for Strings is one of them.
jhassinger4
On the last night of the Proms, September 15th 2001, at Albert Hall, Leonard Slatkin conducted the BBC Orchestra in a performance of Barber's Adagio for Strings, as a tribute to the victims of 9/11, which happened just 4 days earlier. A very moving performance, you can find it on YouTube.
Beautiful.
andres_r2002
Adagio....ni c e , nice.
amazingly beautiful- sounds like a painting
rarubio8
true it's very sad..but my wife and used it for out wedding along with On Earth as it in Heaven by Ennio Morricone - Theme from "the Mission" - we always say when you marry it's like dying to yourselves and giving up of yourself for the other...kind of fitting with the Platoon movie (dying) and Mission (sacrificing ) . . . y e s beautiful music...touc h e s the soul deeply..
sheilabrowni n g r n
this is one of my very favorite compositions - I remember it being played as part of Princess Grace Kelly's funeral procession! Nothing could be more fitting!!
Amazing. Great piece. I'll always remember it from Homeworld, one of my favorite games of all time.
deirme
If his adagio doesn't touch the well of tears..nothi n g else on earth will....the world lost such a sensitively touching talent when we lost him
subscription s 8 6
I appreciate others' comments about other well-known performances of this piece, and the Pandora bio is helpful. For me, I'll always associate this movement with the Vietnam war, thanks to Oliver Stone's film "Platoon." The Adagio captures well my feelings about that war.
according to npr, this song hits near the top for one of the saddest songs recorded. It was aired on the radio when FDR died and has been used many times since as a funeral song.
koolkula2000
Wasnt this in Amelie?- Adagio for Strings?
bombillo88
.
evocative, heartrending and intensely beautiful... u n e q u a l l e d strings in the modern era
colin.neat
evocative without equal..
A simply fantastic composer...
bgmakriswork
Also my most favorite; love it in all forms...a musical stained glass window into heaven.
janetreep0
While often used as a mourning scene in 20th/21st century movies, this piece is excellent for creating focal points when creating algebraic equations and statistical analysis
This is one of my favorite piesces, however, I prefer it in it's original form as a string quartet piece and I prefer listening to the
complete piece. The person who commissioned it refused to pay the commission because he said the last movement was too difficult.
My favorite piece of music, hands down. While it has become cliche in the past 10 years or so because of overuse in movies and television, it hasn't stopped me from getting the exact same emotional reaction to it today that I got when I first heard it. This piece will always be very special for me. It's considered to be the nations mourning piece and was played after F.D.R. and J.F.K.'s funerals as well as after 9-11.
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