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JENNIFER PAULL investigates
Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto Op 14


Samuel Barber's success as one of America's greatest composers came early, and has been lasting. It has been said that his music contained plenty of his native American flavouring mixed with a European sensitivity.

From the age of seven, he displayed a prodigious talent for composing vocal and instrumental music. His aunt and uncle, the contralto Louise Homer and the composer Sidney Homer, who was Barber's mentor for more than 25 years, encouraged his studies.

Barber first entered the Curtis Institute at the age of 14 shortly after its formation. In 1928, he met Menotti there, an encounter which led to a lifelong personal and professional relationship.

A Rome Prize enabled him to spend two years at the American Academy (1935-7) where he completed the Symphony in One Movement (1936). This work received immediate performances in Rome, Cleveland and New York. It opened the Salzburg Festival in 1937; the first American symphonic work to be included in the Festival's long and varied history.

Barber's international stature was confirmed, however, in 1938 by Toscanini's patronage. Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra had broadcast several of Samuel Barber's works, including his tremendously successful Adagio for Strings (1936). After this, Barber's status as an international composer was well and truly established. To set this moment in the context of other points upon which I shall elaborate further, this broadcast was just one year after the Schumann Violin Concerto had finally received its première, eighty four years after its composition, thanks to the persistence of Sir Edward Elgar's friend, Jelly d'Aranyi (1895-1966).

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Copyright © 26 April 2002 Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland





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