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Samuel Barber: The Composer and His Music

Samuel Barber: The Composer and His Music [Kindle Edition]

Barbara B. Heyman

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Product Description


In the sheer scope of her documentation, her book must be close on faultless. (Tempo)

provides and authoritative commentary on this most European of American composers (Michael White, Independent)

Product Description

Samuel Barber (1910-1981) was one of the most important and honored American composers of the twentieth century. Writing in a great variety of musical forms--symphonies, concertos, operas, vocal music, and chamber music--he infused his works with poetic lyricism and gave tonal language and forms new vitality. His rich legacy includes such famous compositions as the Adagio for Strings, the orchestral song Knoxville: Summer of 1915, three concertos, and his two operas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Vanessa and Antony and Cleopatra, a commissioned work that opened the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center. Generously documented by letters, sketchbooks, original musical manuscripts, and interviews with friends, colleagues and performers with whom he worked, this is the first book to cover Barber's entire career and all of his compositions. The biographical material on Barber is closely interspersed with a discussion of his music, displaying Barber's creative processes at work from his early student compositions to his mature masterpieces. Heyman also provides the social context in which this major composer grew: his education, how he built his career, the evolving musical tastes of American audiences, his relationship to musical giants like Serge Koussevitzky, and the role of radio in the promotion of his music. A testament to the significance of the new Romanticism, Samuel Barber stands as a model biography of an important American musical figure.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 8922 KB
  • Print Length: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (13 Aug 1992)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00524YUQ4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #982,385 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As close to a "definitive" study as we're ever likely to see 30 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on
As a lifelong student of Barber and his music, I was thrilled at the depth and scope of this work. It contains many musical examples and, most tellingly, reveals what music Barber loved and was studying when he composed various works. And it doesn't pull any punches in its treatment of Barber's tendencies toward depression and alcoholism. I spoke to Barbara Heyman a few years ago and she said she was working on a companion volume but had no firm idea when it might be published. We can only hope it will be soon!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Done 6 Jun 2006
By Scott D. Scheule - Published on
Well, I thought the book was a respectable mix of biographical information and analysis, not too much of one or the other. It is organized (roughly) by opus number, meaning one can find virtually all the information about a specific work condensed in a particular section--with the overall outline being chronological. This structuring is easy and accessible.

Theory hogs, like me, may want a few more examples--but if so, we're just being greedy. The author's analyses of the works are well-done, cursory without being useless. She neither fawns over her subject, nor butchers him. Perhaps a bit more biographical information would be nice--Barber's love life is always touched upon at tangents, never explained. But maybe such information is simply not to be found.

The esoteric nature of the subject precludes me from recommending it generally--but for anyone with the slightest interest in Mr. Barber, this is certainly one of the best resources out there.

And what do we say of Samuel? Reactionary, fuddy-duddy? Snobbish European turning his back on his American home, or a man who simply recognizes good music when he hears it? Or, like Brahms, a fusion of past and present who only appears conservative when compared with the silly extremists? I lean towards the latter.

Barber enjoyed Brahms, and there's a similarity stapling the two together here. Both took a rich harmonic and modern language, Brahms with his soup of pivot chords and chromatic thirds, Barber with his polychords, changing meters, and quartal implications, reinvigorating ideas and forms that some describe as depleted. And both were, in some sense, fearless. Now of course neither was immune to public opinion--the failure of Anthony and Cleopatra cracked off a bit of Barber's heart--but nevertheless, we find two men who by and large did not care to defend their artistic choices. Barber wrote music of lyrical melodic line when the flavor de jure was prickly textures or avant-garde nonsense.

I have no opinion on whether or not that was the right decision; but I bestow the highest respect on Barber's intense drive for perfection. 71 years he lived, and left behind a paucity--but a paucity of perfection. The concertos are jewels! The songs are staples (or should be)! Barber forced and tempered his creations: many works were revised after the first performance--and, which is to be respected all the more--usually made shorter by it. Excess notes deleted, and tight statements left behind.

This book honors that aspect of him well, and I'm glad to have gotten to know him through it.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great biography! 27 Mar 2001
By Thomas C. Nagy - Published on
I read this book with the same excitement that I would a... thriller. It is exciting to find out so much about a manwhose music is among America's best! Barbara Heyman has captured thespirit of Samuel Barber's life and compiled it into a readableorganized format. Be sure to read all of the footnotes/endnotes.They contain some of the most wonderful tidbits of information.Authoritative writing!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The authoritative biography on Barber 27 April 1999
By Jonathan Girard ( - Published on
This is the authoritative biography of Barber. Heyman is a first rate scholar and has published an incredibly comprehensive work. It covers every detail of his life. It also corrects several inaccuracies of the previous coveted Nathan Broder publication. (Completion dates of several works that have been researched through his letters.)
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC book!!! 17 Oct 2005
By Jennifer L. Barrett - Published on
I'm currently researching Barber for my Masters Thesis. This is the best book available currently on Barber. The variety of information and sources she offers is excellent. In addition to the biographical information, Heyman presents each of his pieces in reference to certain time periods of his life and goes on to discuss these pieces in depth. An incredibly valuable resource for me and anyone interested in Samuel Barber.
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