Monday, 11 July 2011


Samuel Osborne Barber II (March 9, 1910 – January 23, 1981) was an American composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music. In his mid-twenties he composed his defining work; Adagio for Strings* is his most popular composition and widely considered a masterpiece of modern classical music.

Barber never achieved the same recognition for his subsequent work which some critics derided as uncharacteristically weak and unoriginal. The critical rejection of music that Barber considered to be among his best sent him into a deep depression.

Barber spent many years in isolation (eventually diagnosed with clinical depression) after the harsh rejection of his third opera Antony and Cleopatra. The opera was written for and premiered at the opening of the new
Metropolitan Opera House in New York on 16 September 1966. After this setback, Barber continued to write music until he was almost 70 years old. Barber's music in his later years would be lauded as reflective and contemplative – but this was after his death at the age of 70. Barber spent most of his professional life striving to achieve the same level of success that he had with Adagio for Strings  in 1936. 

*Adagio for Strings can be heard on many film, TV, and video game soundtracks, including Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning film
Platoon (1986), David Lynch's 1980 Oscar-nominated film The Elephant Man, Michael Moore's documentary Sicko (2007), Swimming Upstream (2003), Lorenzo's Oil (1992), A Very Natural Thing (1974), Reconstruction (2003), and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Oscar-nominated 2001 rom-com Amélie.
The Adagio was broadcast over the radio at the announcement of Franklin D. Roosevelt's death in 1945. It was also played at the funeral of Albert Einstein and at the funeral of Princess Grace of Monaco in 1982. It was performed in 2001 at the Last Night of the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall to commemorate the victims of the 9/11 attacks, replacing the traditional upbeat patriotic songs.

Adagio for Strings, op.11  -

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