March 9, 1910
West Chester, Pennsylvania
January 23, 1981 in New York City
Also Known As:
Samuel Osborne Barber II was an American composer, teacher and songwriter of the 20th century whose work reflected European Romantic tradition. His father was a doctor; his aunt, Louise Homer, was a contralto married to songwriter Sidney Homer.
Type of Compositions:
Barber started taking piano lessons when he was 6 years old, a year later he was already composing. As a teenager he became a church organist and later entered Curtis Institute where he studied piano, composition, conducting and singing. Among his teachers were Isabelle Vengerova, Rosario Scalero, Fritz Reiner and Emilio de Gogorza. Barber went to Italy to further his studies.
Among his known works are "Dover Beach," "Summer Music," "Hermit Songs," "The School for Scandal Overture," "Music for A Scene from Shelly," "Adagio for Strings," "Cello Concerto, Opus 22,' operas like "A Hand of Bridge," "Antony and Cleopatra" and "Vanessa," "Medea" (a ballet), "Piano Sonata, opus 26" and "Piano Concerto, Opus 38."
Samuel Barber was also an excellent baritone singer. In 1928, he met and became friends with fellow composer Giancarlo Menotti. Menotti was the librettist for Barber's opera "Vanessa" and "A Hand of Bridge." In 1936 he won the American Academy’s Prix de Rome. His "Piano Concerto, Opus 38" won a Pulitzer Prize. Barber loved poetry, "Dover Beach" is in fact a poem written by Matthew Arnold which Barber set to music. Barber taught at the Curtis Institute from 1939 to 1942.
Article and music samples from NPR's The Impact of Barber's "Adagio for Strings."
Listen to Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" courtesy of YouTube.