Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Barber 100

Today is the 100th birthday of American composer Samuel Barber. Samuel Barber's music, masterfully crafted and built on romantic structures and sensibilities, is at once lyrical, rhythmically complex, and harmonically rich. Born March 9, 1910 in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Barber wrote his first piece at age 7 and attempted his first opera at age 10. At the age of 14 he entered the Curtis Institute, where he studied voice, piano, and composition. Later, he studied conducting with Fritz Reiner.
At Curtis, Barber met Gian Carlo Menotti with whom he would form a lifelong personal and professional relationship. Menotti supplied libretti for Barber's operas Vanessa (for which Barber won the Pulitzer) and A Hand of Bridge. Barber's music was championed by a remarkable range of renowned artists, musicians, and conductors including Vladimir Horowitz, John Browning, Martha Graham, Arturo Toscanini, Dmitri Mitropoulos, Jennie Tourel, and Eleanor Steber. His Antony and Cleopatra was commissioned to open the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in 1966.
Barber was the recipient of numerous awards and prizes including the American Prix de Rome, two Pulitzers, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His intensely lyrical Adagio for Strings has become one of the most recognizable and beloved compositions, both in concerts and films ("Platoon," "The Elephant Man," "El Norte," "Lorenzo's Oil").

Here is one of my all time favorites, his First Essay for orchestra:

When I was a young man, I spent a summer learning Barber's Violin Concerto and loved it. Here is a wonderful performance from Anne Akiko Meyers:

I'm also a big fan of his Piano Concerto, especially the 2nd movement:

I met and interviewed John Browning in Las Vegas, shortly before his death. He was playing Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, but of course shared stories about Barber. Browning shared while there weren't snags about the music (completed very close to the premiere!) they was a problem with the piano - they couldn't get the piano through doors in the new Lincoln Center!

I invite you to investigate all of Barber's works:
Op. 1, Serenade for string quartet (1928) (also arr. String orchestra, 1944)
Op. 2, Three Songs (1927-1934)
Op. 3, Dover Beach (Baritone and String Quartet) (1931)
Op. 4, Two Interludes for piano (Violin Sonata now destroyed/lost) (1931-1932)
Op. 5, The School for Scandal (Overture) (1931)
Op. 6, Cello Sonata (1932)
Op. 7, Music for a Scene from Shelley (Tone poem) (1933)
Op. 8, Two pieces (The Virgin Martyrs, Let Down the Bars, O Death) (Choral) (1936)
Op. 9, (First) Symphony in One Movement (1936)
Op.10, Three Songs (1935-1936)
Op.11, String Quartet (1936) (Adagio for Strings (arrangement of 2nd movement, 1938), Agnus Dei (choral arrangement, 1967))
Op.12, (First) Essay for Orchestra (1937)
Op.13, Four Songs (1937-1940)
Op.14, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1939)
Op.15, A Stopwatch and Ordnance Map (Choral) (1940)
Op.16, Reincarnations (Choral) (Mary Hynes, 1937; Anthony O'Daly, The Coolin, 1940)
Op.17, Second Essay for Orchestra (1942)
Op.18, Two Songs (1942-1943)
Op.19, Second Symphony (1944)
Op.19a, Night Flight (arrangement of 2nd movement of Second Symphony) (1964)
Op.20, Four Excursions for piano (1942-1944)
Op.21, Capricorn Concerto (1944)
Op.22, Cello Concerto (1945)
Op.23, Medea (Ballet) (1946) (orchestral suite, 1946)
Op.23a, Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance (1953)
Op.24, Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (Soprano & Orchestra) (1948)
Op.25, Nuvoletta (song) (1947)
Op.26, Sonata for Piano (1949)
Op.27, Melodies Passageres (song) (1950-1951)
Op.28, Souvenirs (Ballet) (1952)
Op.29, Hermit Songs (1953)
Op.30, Prayers of Kierkegaard (Soprano, Choir & Orchestra) (1954)
Op.31, Summer Music for woodwind quintet (1955)
Op.32, Vanessa (Opera) (1957)
Op.33, Nocturne for Piano (Hommage to John Field) (Piano) (1959)
Op.34, Wondrous Love: Variations on a Shape-note Hymn (organ) (1958)
Op.35, A Hand of Bridge (Chamber opera) (1959)
Op.36, Toccata Festiva for Organ and Orchestra (1960)
Op.37, Dei Natali (chorale preludes for Christmas) (1960)
Op.38, Piano Concerto (1962)
Op.38a, Canzone for flute (or violin) and piano (1958)
Op.39, Andromache’s Farewell (Soprano & Orchestra) (1962)
Op.40, Antony and Cleopatra (Opera) (1966)
Op.41, Despite and Still (five songs) (1968)
Op.42, Two Pieces (Twelfth Night, To be Sung on the Water) (1968)
Op.43, The Lovers (Baritone & Orchestra) (1971)
Op.44, Fadograph of a Yestern Scene (1971)
Op.45, Three Songs (1972)
Op.46, Ballade for Piano (1977)
Op.47, Third Essay for orchestra (1978)
Op.48 (posth.), Canzonetta for Oboe and String Orchestra (1977-78)
Three Sketches for piano (1923-24)
Suite for Carillon/Allegro, Dirge, Legend (1931)
God’s Grandeur (1938)
Commando March for Orchestra/Band (1943)
Intermezzo from "Vanessa" (1958)
Easter Chorale (1965)
Mutations from Bach for brass choir and timpani (1967)
Skorvatch est Mort (1968)
Songs without opus number (mostly from student and early years)

written and compiled by John Clare

No comments: