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Barber, Samuel

Barber, Samuel

Born in 1910


Inducted in 1998

Samuel Barber, one of the most respected and most widely performed 20th century American composers, originally focused on performance rather than composition. He was in the first class of the then new Curtis Institute of Music in 1924, studying piano, conducting and voice as well as composition. He continued to study voice after graduation, giving recitals on NBC radio and recording his Dover Beach with the Curtis Quartet. Barber won the Bearns Prize of Columbia University in 1928 for his Violin Sonata, and used the award to make his first trip to Italy. He received this prize again, in 1933, for his Overture to Sheridan’s comedy The School for Scandal, which was his graduation piece at Curtis, and his first work to be performed by a major orchestra (the Philadelphia, in August 1933). With the American Prix de Rome and a Pulitzer Traveling Scholarship, Barber went back to Europe in 1935 and 1936, and in those years composed his orchestral Music for a Scene from Schelley, the First Symphony, and his String Quartet. The Symphony, given its first American performance in 1937 by Artur Rodzinski and the Cleveland Orchestra, became the first American work to be performed at the Salzburg Festival when Rodzinski conducted it there in the summer of that year. Following wartime service in the Army Air Force Barber returned to Europe with a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1946; in 1948 he became a consultant to the American Academy in Rome. Barber’s four act opera Vanessa, completed in 1957 with a libretto by his fellow Curtis student and close friend Gian Carlo Menotti, was introduced and recorded by the Metropolitan Opera. Vanessa was also presented at the Salzburg Festival in 1958, and won a Pulitzer Prize for Barber that year. His subsequent opera Antony and Cleopatra, with a libretto by Franco Zeffirelli after Shakespeare, was commissioned for the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in 1966. In 1962 Barber received a second Pulitzer Prize, this time for his Piano Concerto, commissioned by his publisher, G. Schirmer Inc., in celebration of the firm’s centenary, and introduced by John Browning with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Erich Leinsdorf, in the second public concert in Philharmonic Hall (since renamed Aver Fisher Hall), the first component of New York’s Lincoln Center to be completed, in September 1962.

Listen to Barber, Samuel

"Hermit Songs, Op. 29 "

Movement: The Monk and His Cat
Performer: Leontyne Price (vocal), Samuel Barber (piano)
Courtesy Of: Sony Classical

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