ABOUT THIS BOOK
A pivotal twentieth-century composer, Samuel Barber earned a long list of honors and accolades that included two Pulitzer Prizes for Music and the public support of conductors like Arturo Toscanini, Serge Koussevitzky, and Leonard Bernstein. Barber’s works have since become standard concert repertoire and continue to flourish across high art and popular culture.
Acclaimed biographer Howard Pollack (Aaron Copland, George Gershwin) offers a multifaceted account of Barber’s life and music while placing the artist in his social and cultural milieu. Born into a musical family, Barber pursued his artistic ambitions from childhood. Pollack follows Barber’s path from his precocious youth through a career where, from the start, the composer consistently received prizes, fellowships, and other recognition. Stylistic analyses of works like the Adagio for Strings, the Violin Concerto, Knoxville: Summer of 1915 for voice and orchestra, the Piano Concerto, and the operas Vanessa and Antony and Cleopatra, stand alongside revealing accounts of the music’s commissioning, performance, reception, and legacy. Throughout, Pollack weaves in accounts of Barber’s encounters with colleagues like Aaron Copland and Francis Poulenc, performers from Eleanor Steber and Leontyne Price to Vladimir Horowitz and Van Cliburn, patrons, admirers, and a wide circle of eminent friends and acquaintances. He also provides an eloquent portrait of the composer’s decades-long relationship with the renowned opera composer Gian Carlo Menotti.
Informed by new interviews and immense archival research, Samuel Barber is a long-awaited critical and personal biography of a monumental figure in twentieth-century American music.