This month Clef Notes is looking at a few composers known for their work in American music history. Samuel Barber (1910–1981) is the perfect example of a composer who played a significant role in American music during the mid-twentieth century. He wrote in just about every genre and was known to create a style similar to that of the Romantic period rather than that of the modernists who surrounded him. Besides composing, he was also known as a singer and a pianist.
Barber first came to prominence in the late 1930s after Toscanini performed the second movement of his string quartet with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. That movement today is known as his Adagio for Strings and is often heard in film or settings where grief is the prominent mood.
In 1958, Barber won his first Pulitzer Prize for the opera Vanessa. Later, in 1962, he won a second Pulitzer Prize for his Piano Concerto. Do you know this work? Listen here.