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Samuel Barber


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Samuel Osborne Barber (March 9, 1910–January 23, 1981) was an American composer of music, best known for his Adagio For Strings.

He was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania and began to compose at the age of seven. He studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia before becoming a fellow of the American Academy in Rome in 1935. The following year he wrote his String Quartet in B minor, the second movement of which he would arrange, at Arturo Toscanini’s suggestion, for string orchestra as Adagio for Strings, and again for mixed chorus as Agnus Dei.

He tended to avoid the experimentalism of some other American composers of his generation, preferring relatively traditional harmonies and forms until late in his life. Most of his work is lushly melodic and has often been described as , though some of his later works, notably the Third Essay and the Dance of Vengeance, display a masterful use of percussive effects, , and neo-Stravinskian effects.

His songs, accompanied by piano or orchestra, are among the most popular 20th-century songs in the classical repertoire. They include a setting of Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach, originally written for string quartet and baritone, the Hermit Songs on anonymous Irish texts of the 8th to 13th centuries, and Knoxville: Summer of 1915, written for the soprano Eleanor Steber and based on an autobiographical text by James Agee, the introductory portion of his novel A Death in the Family. Barber possessed a good baritone voice and, for a while, considered becoming a professional singer. He made a few recordings, including his own Dover Beach.


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