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date: 12 November 2019

Barber, Samuel (opera)locked

  • Barbara B. Heyman

Extract

(b West Chester, pa, March 9, 1910; d New York, Jan 23, 1981). American composer. One of the most honoured and most frequently performed American composers in the Americas and Europe during the middle of the 20th century, Barber followed, throughout his career, a path marked by vocally inspired lyricism and a commitment to the tonal language and many of the forms of late 19th-century music. Modernist elements – increased dissonance, chromaticism, tonal ambiguity and limited serialism – appear in his music after 1939 only in so far as he could pursue, without compromise, principles of tonality and lyrical expression. Almost all his published works (48 opus numbers including at least one composition in nearly every genre) entered the repertory soon after he wrote them, and many continue to be performed, gaining new significance within the current trend of ‘New Romanticism’.

From the age of seven, Barber displayed a prodigious talent for composing both vocal and instrumental music. At 14, with the encouragement of his aunt and uncle – the celebrated opera singer Louise Homer and the composer Sidney Homer, who was Barber’s mentor for more than 25 years – he entered the newly founded Curtis Institute of Music and distinguished himself in three areas of study: piano, with Isabelle Vengerova; voice, with Emilio Edoardo de Gogorza; and composition with Rosario Scalero. For a brief period during the mid-1930s he pursued a career as a singer. Barber gained early recognition as a composer, winning a Rome Prize, which enabled him to spend two years at the American Academy (...

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