The American composer Samuel Barber is one of the most celebrated 20th-century composers. He was never a part of the musical avant-garde, and wrote instead pieces in a Romantic idiom, characterized by rich harmonies and complex rhythms. His most beloved work is het lyrical Adagio for Strings, an arrangement of the slow movement of his String Quartet, that can be heard in both concerts and films. His Knoxville: Summer of 1915 for soprano and orchestra is also regularly performed.
Barber became interested in music at an early age, and was very talented indeed. At the age of seven he wrote his first composition, a short piece for piano. Two years later he knew that he was meant to be a composer. During his studies he wrote a number of successful compositions which put him into the spotlight of the American musical life. He made his international breakthrough during his travels through Europe in 1935-1936 with his colleague and partner Gian Carlo Menotti.
Barber’s compositions were performed by leading conductors such as Dimitri Mitropoulos, George Szell and Leopold Stokowski. He also received commissions by famous artists and authorities. Barber was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera to compose a new opera for the opening of its new building in 1966. The premiere of this work, Antony and Cleopatra, was plagued with technical problems that overshadowed Barber’s music. The critics rejected the work, which sent the composer into a depression. After his recovery he continued to compose till the end of his life.