Samuel Osborne Barber II (March 9, 1910 – January 23, 1981) was an American composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music. He is one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century; music critic Donal Henahan stated, "Probably no other American composer has ever enjoyed such early, such persistent and such long-lasting acclaim."
A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.
An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which combines instruments from different families, including bowed string instruments such as the violin, viola, cello, and double bass, brass instruments such as the horn, trumpet, trombone and tuba, woodwinds such as the flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon, and percussion instruments such as the timpani, bass drum, triangle, snare drum, cymbals, and mallet percussion instruments each grouped in sections. Other instruments such as the piano and celesta may sometimes appear in a fifth keyboard section or may stand alone, as may the concert harp and, for performances of some modern compositions, electronic instruments.
Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.
His Adagio for Strings (1936) has earned a permanent place in the concert repertory of orchestras. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music twice: for his opera Vanessa (1956–57) and for the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1962). Also widely performed is his Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (1947), a setting for soprano and orchestra of a prose text by James Agee. At the time of Barber's death, nearly all of his compositions had been recorded.
Adagio for Strings is a work by Samuel Barber, arguably his best known, arranged for string orchestra from the second movement of his String Quartet, Op. 11.
The Pulitzer Prize for Music is one of seven Pulitzer Prizes awarded annually in Letters, Drama, and Music. It was first given in 1943. Joseph Pulitzer arranged for a music scholarship to be awarded each year, and this was eventually converted into a prize: "For a distinguished musical composition of significant dimension by an American that has had its first performance in the United States during the year."
Vanessa is an American opera in three acts by Samuel Barber, opus 32, with an original English libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti. It was composed in 1956–1957 and was first performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 15, 1958 under the baton of Dimitri Mitropoulos in a production designed by Cecil Beaton and directed by Menotti. Barber revised the opera in 1964, reducing the four acts to the three-act version most commonly performed today.
Barber was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the son of Marguerite McLeod (née Beatty) and Samuel Le Roy Barber.He was born into a comfortable, educated, social, and distinguished American family. His father was a physician; his mother was a pianist of English-Scottish-Irish (British) descent whose family had lived in the United States since the time of the American Revolutionary War. His maternal aunt, Louise Homer, was a leading contralto at the Metropolitan Opera; his uncle, Sidney Homer, was a composer of American art songs. Louise Homer is known to have influenced Barber's interest in voice. Through his aunt, Barber was introduced to many great singers and songs.
West Chester is a borough and the county seat of Chester County, Pennsylvania, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The population was 18,461 at the 2010 census.
The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was an 18th-century war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies which declared independence as the United States of America.
Louise Beatty Homer was an American operatic contralto who had an active international career in concert halls and opera houses from 1895 until her retirement in 1932.
At a very early age, Barber became profoundly interested in music, and it was apparent that he had great musical talent and ability. He began studying the piano at the age of 6 and at age 7 composed his first work, Sadness, a 23-measure solo piano piece in C minor.Despite Barber's interest in music, his family wanted him to become a typical extroverted, athletic American boy. This meant, in particular, they encouraged his playing football. However, Barber was in no way a typical boy, and at the age of nine he wrote to his mother:
Dear Mother: I have written this to tell you my worrying secret. Now don't cry when you read it because it is neither yours nor my fault. I suppose I will have to tell it now without any nonsense. To begin with I was not meant to be an athlet [ sic ]. I was meant to be a composer, and will be I'm sure. I'll ask you one more thing.—Don't ask me to try to forget this unpleasant thing and go play football.—Please—Sometimes I've been worrying about this so much that it makes me mad (not very).
The Latin adverb sic inserted after a quoted word or passage indicates that the quoted matter has been transcribed or translated exactly as found in the source text, complete with any erroneous, archaic, or otherwise nonstandard spelling. It also applies to any surprising assertion, faulty reasoning, or other matter that might be likely interpreted as an error of transcription.
Barber attempted to write his first opera, entitled The Rose Tree, at the age of 10. At the age of 12, he became an organist at a local church. When he was 14, he entered the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied piano with Isabelle Vengerova, composition with Rosario Scalero and George Frederick Boyle, [ failed verification ] and voice with Emilio de Gogorza. He began composing seriously in his late teenage years. Around the same time, he met fellow Curtis schoolmate Gian Carlo Menotti, who became his partner in life as well as in their shared profession. At the Curtis Institute, Barber was a triple prodigy in composition, voice, and piano. He soon became a favorite of the conservatory's founder, Mary Louise Curtis Bok. It was through Mrs. Bok that Barber was introduced to his lifelong publishers, the Schirmer family. At the age of 18, Barber won the Joseph H. Bearns Prize from Columbia University for his violin sonata (now lost or destroyed by the composer).
An organist is a musician who plays any type of organ. An organist may play solo organ works, play with an ensemble or orchestra, or accompany one or more singers or instrumental soloists. In addition, an organist may accompany congregational hymn-singing and play liturgical music.
The Curtis Institute of Music is a conservatory in Philadelphia that offers courses of study leading to a performance diploma, Bachelor of Music, Master of Music in Opera, or Professional Studies Certificate in Opera. It is among the most selective institutes of higher education in the world with a 4.8% admissions rate.
Isabelle Vengerova was a Russian, later American, pianist and music teacher.
From his early to late twenties, Barber wrote a flurry of successful compositions, launching him into the spotlight of the classical music world. His first orchestral work, an overture to The School for Scandal , was composed in 1931 when he was 21 years old. It premiered successfully two years later in a performance given by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of conductor Alexander Smallens.Many of his compositions were commissioned or first performed by such noted artists as Vladimir Horowitz, Eleanor Steber, Raya Garbousova, John Browning, Leontyne Price, Pierre Bernac, Francis Poulenc, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. In 1935, at the age of 25, he was awarded the American Prix de Rome; he also received a Pulitzer traveling scholarship, which allowed him to study abroad in 1935–1936. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1946.
In 1938, when Barber was 28, his Adagio for Strings was performed by the NBC Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Arturo Toscanini, along with his first Essay for Orchestra . The Adagio had been arranged from the slow movement of Barber's String Quartet, Op. 11. Toscanini had rarely performed music by American composers before (an exception was Howard Hanson's Second Symphony, which he conducted in 1933).At the end of the first rehearsal of the piece, Toscanini remarked, "Semplice e bella" (simple and beautiful).
In 1942, after the US entered World War II, Barber joined the Army Air Corps; there, he was commissioned to write his Second Symphony, a work he later suppressed. Composed in 1943, the symphony was originally titled Symphony Dedicated to the Air Forces and was premiered in early 1944 by Serge Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Barber revised the symphony in 1947 and it was subsequently published by G. Schirmer in 1950and recorded the following year by the New Symphony Orchestra of London, conducted by Barber himself.
According to some sources, Barber destroyed the score in 1964.Hans Heinsheimer was an eyewitness, and reported that he accompanied Barber to the publisher's office where they collected all the music from the library, and Barber "tore up all these beautifully and expensively copied materials with his own hands". Doubt has been cast on this story, however, on grounds that Heinsheimer, as an executive at G. Schirmer, would have been unlikely to have allowed Barber into the Schirmer offices to watch him "rip apart the music that his company had invested money in publishing". The score was later reconstructed from the instrumental parts, and released in a Vox Box "Stradivari Classics" recording by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Schenck in 1988.
In 1943, Barber and Menotti purchased a house in suburban Mount Kisco, New York, north of Manhattan.
Barber won the Pulitzer Prize twice: in 1958 for his first opera Vanessa , and in 1963 for his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.
Barber spent many years in isolation after the harsh rejection of his third opera Antony and Cleopatra . The opera was written for and premiered at the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House on September 16, 1966. After this setback, Barber continued to write music until he was almost 70 years old. The Third Essay for orchestra (1978) was his last major work. He suffered from depression and alcoholism during these years.
Barber died of cancer on January 23, 1981, at his 907 Fifth Avenue apartment in Manhattan at the age of 70.The funeral was held at the First Presbyterian Church in New York three days later. He was buried in Oaklands Cemetery in his hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Barber received numerous awards and prizes, including the Rome Prize (the American version of the Prix de Rome), two Pulitzers, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1961.
Barber was awarded the Edward MacDowell Medal in 1980 by the MacDowell Colony for outstanding contribution to the arts.
In addition to composing, Barber was active in organizations that sought to help musicians and promote music. He was president of the International Music Council of UNESCO. He worked to bring attention to and ameliorate adverse conditions facing musicians and musical organizations worldwide.He was one of the first American composers to visit Russia (then part of the Soviet Union). Barber was also influential in the successful campaign by composers against ASCAP, the goal of which was to increase royalties paid to composers.
Through the success of his Overture to The School for Scandal (1931), Music for a Scene from Shelley (1933), Adagio for Strings (1936), (First) Symphony in One Movement (1936), (First) Essay for Orchestra (1937) and Violin Concerto (1939), Barber garnered performances by the world's leading conductors such as Artur Rodziński, Eugene Ormandy, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Bruno Walter, Charles Münch, George Szell, Leopold Stokowski, and Thomas Schippers.
Among his works are four concertos, one each for violin (1939), cello (1945) and piano (1962), and the neoclassical Capricorn Concerto for flute, oboe, trumpet and string orchestra (1944). He also wrote a concertante work for organ and orchestra entitled Toccata Festiva (1960).
Barber's final opus was the Canzonetta for oboe and string orchestra (1977–78), Op. 48, originally intended as the second movement of an oboe concerto.
Barber's most important and most played works for the piano include his Excursions, Op. 20, which emulate four styles of classic American idioms, including the boogie woogie and blues, and the Piano Sonata in E-flat minor, Op. 26. The Nocturne ("Homage to John Field"), Op. 33, is another respected piece which he composed for the instrument.
Menotti supplied the libretto for Barber's opera Vanessa.(Menotti also contributed the libretto for Barber's chamber opera A Hand of Bridge.) In 1956, using his vocal training, Barber played and sang the score of Vanessa for the Metropolitan Opera's General Manager, Rudolf Bing, who accepted the work. It premiered in January 1958. Vanessa won the 1958 Pulitzer Prize and gained acclaim as the first American grand opera.
Barber's Antony and Cleopatra was commissioned to open the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in 1966. The elaborate production, designed by Franco Zeffirelli, was plagued with technical disasters; it also overwhelmed and obscured Barber's music, which most critics derided as uncharacteristically weak and unoriginal. The critical rejection of music that Barber considered to be among his best sent him into a deep depression. In recent years, a revised version of Antony and Cleopatra, for which Menotti provided collaborative assistance, has enjoyed some success.
In 1939 Philadelphia industrialist Samuel Simeon Fels commissioned Barber to write a violin concerto for Fels's ward, Iso Briselli, a 1934 graduate from the Curtis Institute of Music (as Barber was).The Barber biographies written by Nathan Broder (1954) and Barbara B. Heyman (1992) discuss the genesis of the concerto during the period of the violin concerto's commission and subsequent year leading up to the first performance. Heyman interviewed Briselli and others familiar with the history for her book. In late 2010, previously unpublished letters written by Fels, Barber, and Albert Meiff (Briselli's violin coach in that period), from the Samuel Simeon Fels Papers archived at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, became available to the public.
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A string orchestra is an orchestra consisting solely of a string section made up of the bowed strings used in Western Classical music. The instruments of such an orchestra are most often the following: the violin, which is divided into first and second violin players, the viola, the cello, and usually, but not always, the double bass.
Roger Huntington Sessions was an American composer, teacher, and writer on music.
The Piano Concerto, Op. 38, by Samuel Barber was commissioned by the music publishing company G. Schirmer Inc. in honor of the centenary of their founding. The work's premiere was on September 24, 1962, in the opening festivities of Philharmonic Hall, now David Geffen Hall, the first hall built at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan, with John Browning as soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Erich Leinsdorf.
Aulis Sallinen is a Finnish contemporary classical music composer. His music has been variously described as "remorselessly harsh", a "beautifully crafted amalgam of several 20th-century styles", and "neo-romantic". Sallinen studied at the Sibelius Academy, where his teachers included Joonas Kokkonen. He has had works commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, and has also written seven operas, eight symphonies, concertos for violin, cello, flute, horn and English horn as well as several chamber works. He won the Nordic Council Music Prize in 1978 for his opera Ratsumies.
The Sonata for Violoncello and Piano, Opus 6, by Samuel Barber is a sonata for cello and piano. It is in the key of C minor.
Samuel Barber's Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 22, completed on 27 November 1945, was the second of his three concertos. Barber was commissioned to write his cello concerto for Raya Garbousova, an expatriate Russian cellist, by Serge Koussevitzky on behalf of Garbusova and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Funds for the commission were supplied, however, by John Nicholas Brown, an amateur cellist and a trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The score is dedicated to John and Anne Brown. Barber was still on active duty with the U. S. Army at the time he received the commission, and before beginning work asked Garbousova to play through her repertoire for him so that he could understand her particular performing style and the resources of the instrument. Garbousova premiered it with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Symphony Hall, Boston, on 5 April 1946, followed by New York performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on 12 and 13 April. The concerto won Barber the New York Music Critics' Circle Award in 1947.
Rudolf Firkušný was a Czech-born, Czech-American classical pianist.
Samuel Barber completed his Violin Concerto, Op. 14, in 1939. It is a work in three movements, lasting about 22 minutes.
Antony and Cleopatra, Op. 40, is an opera in three acts by American composer Samuel Barber. The libretto was prepared by Franco Zeffirelli. It was based on the play Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare and made use of Shakespeare's language exclusively.
Anders Bo Leif Linde was a Swedish composer whose style resembled that of notable 20th-century neoclassical composers like Benjamin Britten and Samuel Barber.
Capricorn Concerto, Op. 21, is a composition for flute, oboe, trumpet and strings by Samuel Barber, completed on September 8, 1944. A typical performance lasts approximately 14 minutes.
Samuel Barber's Symphony in One Movement, was completed 24 February 1936. It was premiered by Rome's Philharmonic Augusteo Orchestra under the baton of Bernardino Molinari 13 December 1936. It lasts around 21 minutes. The title given in the printed score of the work is First Symphony , and the uniform title is Symphonies, no. 1, op. 9.
Samuel Barber's Essay for Orchestra, Op. 12, completed in the first half of 1938, is an orchestral work in one movement. It was given its first performance by Arturo Toscanini with the NBC Symphony Orchestra on November 5, 1938 in New York in a radio broadcast concert in which the composer's Adagio for Strings saw its first performance. It lasts around 8 minutes and is dedicated "To C.E." The essay is now known as the First Essay for Orchestra after Barber wrote his Second Essay for Orchestra in 1942. He also wrote a Third Essay in 1978.
Symphony No. 2, Op. 19 is a three-movement work for orchestra by the American composer Samuel Barber. The 25-minute work was originally written in 1944. The work underwent many revisions and was finally published in 1950. The original manuscript was withdrawn by Barber in 1964. He ordered that G. Schirmer destroy the original manuscript and all scores in their library. The work remained unpublished for many years until 1984 when a set of parts turned up in a warehouse in England. Renewed interest in Barber's work led to a 1990 reprint of the 1950 edition.
Music for a Scene from Shelley, Op. 7, is a tone poem composed by Samuel Barber in 1933.
The Third Essay, Op. 47, is a short orchestral work composed by Samuel Barber in 1978. The score is dedicated to Audrey Sheldon.
Gian Carlo Menotti was an Italian-American composer and librettist. Although he often referred to himself as an American composer, he kept his Italian citizenship. He wrote the classic Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, along with over two dozen other operas intended to appeal to popular taste.
Shadows, Op. 52, is an orchestral prelude by the Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen, who wrote the piece in 1982 on commission from the National Symphony Orchestra Association. The prelude's thematic material is closely related to Act III of Sallinen's third opera, The King Goes Forth to France, on which he also was at work in 1982, writing Shadows upon completion of Act II of the opera. Nevertheless, the composer has emphasized that Shadows is "an entirely independent orchestral work", albeit one whose "lyrical and dramatic ingredients reflect the philosophy of the opera". The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) premiered the work on 30 November 1982 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., under the direction of its music director, Mstislav Rostropovich. Shadows so impressed Rostropovich and his orchestra that the NSO requested Sallinen compose a symphony for them, the result of which would be the Fifth (1985).