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Unlike many of his contemporaries whose careers came to maturity between
the two World Wars, Barber rarely responded to the experimental trends that
infiltrated music in the 1920's and later again, after World War II.
Nine years of rigorous training in composition under Scalero (whose own
teacher had been a student of Brahms) had helped to preserve Samuel Barber's
connection with the 19th century tradition.
Within the spectrum of style of the twentieth century, Samuel Barber
and Benjamin Britten shared not only certain aesthetic predilections, but
were both conservative and even reactionary in many respects. The music
of both is lyrical, dramatic, romantic or neo-romantic, and classical in
form. Their harmonic language, whilst being modern, is often eclectic and
tonal in its very essence. Both were masters in the art of orchestration
and composition; neither liked to talk analytically about his work.
First-hand experience as an excellent singer and an intuitive empathy
with the voice, found expression in the large legacy of songs that occupy
some two-thirds of Barber's oeuvre. Unlike Copland and other
American composers, Barber rarely incorporated popular, jazz or folk idioms
into his work. Deemed conservative, he had been classified perjuratively,
as a stick-in-the-mud, by the critics of his generation. Undoubtedly however,
the key to his lasting success has come through his typically American directness,
and simplicity. For Barber, the desire to be true to himself outweighed
all other concerns.
Copyright © 26 April 2002
Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland
JENNIFER PAULL'S AMORIS INTERNATIONAL
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