68. Samuel Osborne Barber II [365 Composers for 2013]


9th March – Samuel Barber


Barber (March 9th 1910 – January 23th 1981) is our composer for 9th March, to mark the day of his birth.
Nationality: American
Lifespan: 70 years
Genre: 20th Century
Education: Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia
Fame Ranking: 1

Samuel Barber was one of the most successful American classical composers, enjoying considerable acclaim throughout his working life. Born into a comfortable, musically connected family, Barber realised he was destined to become a composer while still a schoolboy. His mother, aunt and uncle were all professional musicians, and provided the support and networking which enabled him to pursue his dream.

Barber studied composition, voice and piano at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia (a Conservatoire), and began producing mature compositions whilst still in his teens. Aged only 18, he won a prize from Colombia University for a violin sonata (which is now lost).

Barber’s most famous composition is his “Adagio for Strings”, a piece for string orchestra which was originally the slow movement of one of his string quartets. The Adagio was first performed in 1938, lead by the world famous conductor Arturo Toscanini, who had encouraged Barber to make the arrangement. It was premiered on the radio and catapulted Barber into the limelight. It is one of the most popular classical pieces in modern times and has been used countless times in film and on TV, and was also played at Albert Einstein’s funeral. In 1967 Barber re-arranged the piece again, this time setting it for voice entitled “Agnus Dei”.

Here is the “Agnus Dei” setting of Barber’s Adagio, with score:


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