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Samuel Barber

American composer born 9 March 1910 in West Chester, Pennsylvania; died 23 January 1981 in New York City

Samuel Barber’s music reveals tremendous mastery, built on romantic sensibilities and structures, is both lyrical, rhythmically complex, and rich in harmonies. Born on 9 March 1910 in West Chester, Pennsylvania, he composed his first piece of music at the age of seven and made his first attempt at writing an opera at the age of ten. He enrolled in the Curtis Institute at fourteen, where he studied voice, piano, and composition and then went on to study orchestral conducting with Fritz Reiner.

At the Curtis Institute, Barber met Gian-Carlo Menotti, with whom he maintained a strong personal and professional connection. Menotti wrote the libretti for Barber’s Vanessa (for which he won a Pulitzer Prize) and for A Hand of Bridge. Barber’s music was lauded by many renowned artists, musicians, and conductors, such as Vladimir Horowitz, John Browning, Martha Graham, Arturo Toscanini, Dmitri Mitropoulos, Leontyne Price, and Eleonor Steber. His Antony and Cleopatra was a commission for the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in 1966.

Barber won numerous awards and honors, including the Rome Prize and two Pulitzer Prizes. He wa elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His very lyrical Adagio for strings became a popular element in the concert and film canon and has featured in films such asPlatoon, The Elephant Man, El Norte, and Lorenzo’s Oil.


© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 1998

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