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Barber Samuel (1910-1981)

Biography of Barber Samuel:

Samuel Barber was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA on 9 March 1910. His musical ability emerged at an early age and he had already filled a post as an organist when he was twelve. He studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Rosario Scalero for composition, Isabelle Vengerova (piano) and Emilio de Gogorza (voice). He was later to return to the Institute to teach orchestration and composition. He began composing seriously in his late teenage years and by the age of twenty three an orchestral work, Overture to the School for Scandal, was performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Orchestral writing was to become a main feature of his composition and produced the work for which he is most well known now, Adagio for Strings. He achieved international prominence as the first American to be performed by Toscanini and the NBC Symphony when they introduced the Adagio along with Essay No. 1 for Orchestra. After serving in the Army Air Corp (which commissioned him to write his Second Symphony) during World War II he returned to live in the USA, near Mt. Kisco where he shared a house with another great American composer Gian Carlo Menotti. Most of his post-war works were written here. He won two Pulitzer prizes in 1958 (the opera Vanessa- text by Menotti) and 1963 (Concerto for Piano and Orchestra). The world premiere of the opera Antony and Cleopatra opened the new auditorium of the Metropolitan Opera at the Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts on 16 September 1966. Although Barber is most popularly remembered for the Adagio for Strings, his compositions for voices are a significant part of his work. He was the nephew of the celebrated contralto Louise Homer and thus had access to many great singers and songs from an early age, later studying voice himself. This background is reflected in all his writing. One of the most significant and memorable qualities of his work is his ability to write sustained and flowing melodies. Combined with an undoubted skill in orchestration this lyricism produces an intense, emotional strength in his writing which was sustained throughout his career. "His work as a whole is like a living organism with a clearly stamped individuality, enriching itself as it grows" Nathan Broder.

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