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Samuel Barber
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Composer
    (March 9, 1910-January 23, 1981)
    Born in West Chester, Pennsylvania
    Best known work was ‘Adagio for Strings’ (1936)
    Won two Pulitzer Prizes for Music for the opera ‘Vanessa’ (1958) and ‘Concerto for Piano and Orchestra’ (1963)
    Other works include ‘Dover Beach’ (1931), ‘Music for a Scene from Shelley’ (1933), ‘Medea’ (1946), ‘Knoxville: Summer of 1915’ (1948), ‘Hermit Songs’ (1953), ‘Prayers of Kierkegaard’ (1954), ‘A Hand of Bridge’ (1959) and ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ (1966)
    He suffered bouts of depression.
    He called his Violin Concerto ‘the Soap Concerto’ since a soap manufacturer had commissioned it for his violinist son.
    Critic and composer Virgil Thomson dismissed him as a composer for ‘high middlebrow tastes.’
    He said about the ‘Adagio for Strings,’ ‘They always play that piece. I wish they’d play some of my other pieces.’
    He did little composing after the disastrous premier of his opera ‘Antony and Cleopatra.’
    He became the organist at his local church at age twelve.
    ‘Adagio for Strings’ has been called ‘our national music of mourning,’ having been played at several state funerals and 9/11 Ground Zero ceremonies.
    His ‘Vanessa’ was acclaimed as the first American ‘grand opera.’
    Some critics suggest that the failure of ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ was caused by director Franco Zeffirelli’s elaborate production, which overwhelmed the music.
    His response to critics who considered his music old-fashioned: ‘I can only say that I myself wrote always as I wished, without a tremendous desire to find the latest thing possible.’

Credit: C. Fishel


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