Author Topic: The Barber Chair  (Read 28565 times)

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Offline Szykneij

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The Barber Chair
« on: August 13, 2007, 05:50:40 AM »
I've been listening to quite a bit of Samuel Barber lately and I don't think we have a thread going for him yet (or at least I've been unable to find one). I did go back and re-read the Barber thread on the old board and I think there's still a lot more that can be said about his music. I just discovered his piano concerto, and the slow movement now ranks among my favorites, second only to Knoxville: Summer of 1915 which has been mentioned by many as their top Barber piece. I also admire his violin concerto and wonder if anyone can recommend their favorite recordings. I have the Isaac Stern version with Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2007, 06:01:25 AM »
Coincidentally I was listening to Barber Symphony 2 this morning. Like Walton, he did not write that much, compared with some composers, but everything is of a very high standard.

My favourites are Symphony 1 and 2, Cello Concerto, Medea Suite,  Essay No 2 and Knoxville.

As for the fine Violin Concerto, I do not have a favourite version, although there was a great LP featuring William Strickland and the Japan Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra playing Symphony 1 and the Violin Concerto which has sadly never been released on CD. It is my favourite recording of the Symphony and the VC was excellent too although I can't remember the soloist's name.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2007, 06:08:56 AM by vandermolen »
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Offline sound67

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2007, 06:11:05 AM »
I also admire his violin concerto and wonder if anyone can recommend their favorite recordings. I have the Isaac Stern version with Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.

That's a good performance, too, but I favor these two more recent (and very different) ones:



Both complement each other very nicely. The Hahn is the more intimate, more subtle - the Shaham the more obviously virtuosic, big-boned, on a larger canvas (also coupled with a superb reading of the Korngold Concerto). The Meyer Violin Concerto on the Hahn disc is a pleasant, neo-romantic work.

Thomas
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Offline scottscheule

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2007, 06:18:23 AM »
I greatly approve of the title of the thread.

As to Barber's music, it's extraordinarily well-crafted.  The only piece of his I've tried to play was his Nocturne--which is just lovely in its complexity.  Of course the melody is gorgeous, but its run-through with tone rows (inverted and transposed), plus the whole thing is laid out in sonata form (with a masterful development that climaxes with a stirring simultaneous presentation of two motives).

I'm curious to hear his operas--I can't imagine Antony is as bad as all that.

karlhenning

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2007, 06:22:40 AM »
The only recording I've heard, Tony, is of James Oliver Buswell on the Naxos label;  I like it very well, but I should listen to another recording before application of the adjective "favorite" :-)

Also heard Mrs Keith Lockhardt (fie, but I never can remember her name) play this live in Jordan Hall. What delicious music!

Offline vandermolen

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Offline Brewski

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2007, 11:10:12 AM »
Barber wrote some of my favorite pieces of music, e.g., Knoxville and the Violin Concerto.  For the former, I think Dawn Upshaw is just about ideal in the piece.  I've heard Leontyne Price, and she's very good, but Upshaw's voice seems a lighter, better fit for the material.

For the concerto, the one I first heard (and still love) is with Elmar Oliveira, Slatkin and St. Louis (originally coupled with Hanson's Symphony No. 4).  But Hilary Hahn's is excellent (I haven't listened much to the Meyer coupling). 

This is a good reminder that I need to replace an old LP of Barber's works conducted by Thomas Schippers.  It was my favorite version of the Adagio, and the first time I ever heard Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance, as well as the Second Essay - wonderful works, all of them.  You don't see him programmed very much these days...



Oh and I did see a videotape of a performance of Antony and Cleopatra by the Lyric Opera of Chicago (1991, I believe) and have it lying around here somewhere.  I don't recall thinking it was "awful" by any means, but I've only heard it that one time.

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Offline sound67

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2007, 11:20:52 AM »
Barber wrote some of my favorite pieces of music, e.g., Knoxville and the Violin Concerto.  For the former, I think Dawn Upshaw is just about ideal in the piece.  I've heard Leontyne Price, and she's very good, but Upshaw's voice seems a lighter, better fit for the material.

I heard the piece live with buxom (ok, fat) American soprano Christine Brewer at last year's Proms. Very fine performance, indeed.

Dawn Upshaw fits the bill real nice, too.
"Vivaldi didn't compose 500 concertos. He composed the same concerto 500 times" - Igor Stravinsky

"Mozart is a menace to musical progress, a relic of rituals that were losing relevance in his own time and are meaningless to ours." - Norman Lebrecht

Offline Brewski

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2007, 11:46:58 AM »
I heard the piece live with buxom (ok, fat) American soprano Christine Brewer at last year's Proms. Very fine performance, indeed.

Dawn Upshaw fits the bill real nice, too.

I would imagine Brewer would be excellent in that piece.  Just found this review of a recording with Molly McGurk (new to me), and the writer mentions Netania Davrath, whom I agree would have been great in it.

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Offline vandermolen

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2007, 12:38:22 PM »
Barber wrote some of my favorite pieces of music, e.g., Knoxville and the Violin Concerto.  For the former, I think Dawn Upshaw is just about ideal in the piece.  I've heard Leontyne Price, and she's very good, but Upshaw's voice seems a lighter, better fit for the material.

For the concerto, the one I first heard (and still love) is with Elmar Oliveira, Slatkin and St. Louis (originally coupled with Hanson's Symphony No. 4).  But Hilary Hahn's is excellent (I haven't listened much to the Meyer coupling). 


This is a good reminder that I need to replace an old LP of Barber's works conducted by Thomas Schippers.  It was my favorite version of the Adagio, and the first time I ever heard Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance, as well as the Second Essay - wonderful works, all of them.  You don't see him programmed very much these days...



Oh and I did see a videotape of a performance of Antony and Cleopatra by the Lyric Opera of Chicago (1991, I believe) and have it lying around here somewhere.  I don't recall thinking it was "awful" by any means, but I've only heard it that one time.

--Bruce

 That Schippers CBS/Sony CD is great, I sought it out today. There was a v good David Measham Unicorn compilation, now on Regis, with a fine Symphony 1 and my own favourite Second Essay for Orchestra which is perhaps my favourite work by Barber, the last section is marvellous; a wonderfully inspiriting score.
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Offline Szykneij

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2007, 09:32:42 AM »


Thomas -- Thanks for recommending this recording that I just picked up. I notice that Hahn's tempos are faster than Stern's for all three movements and I do prefer Stern's speed for movements I and II. (What appeals to me most about Barber's music is his harmonies and I usually find them more effective when they change more slowly.) Hahn's fingers really fly on the Presto, though, and her performance is most impressive. Her entrance in the second movement (Andante) after the prolonged orchestra introduction is also breathtaking. I like the Meyer piece, too, which was composed specifically for Hahn.
Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it.  ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Offline drogulus

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2008, 01:30:15 PM »


    It's time to refresh this topic. I have to report that the Alsop/Naxos disc is not particularly satisfying. A comparison of The School for Scandal Overture with Schippers/NYPO shows that Alsop takes it too slow and lacks the drive the piece requires. The First Essay is better, though not a match for Keith Clark/Pacific SO on the Albany CD of the Barber, Harris, and Copland compilation. So I can't recommend the Alsop CD for these works, though perhaps the 2 symphonies may make it worthwhile. I haven't really listened seriously to them yet. His symphonies are not among his best works IMO, or at least no performance of them has convinced me they are.

        I strongly second the recommendation of the Schippers CD, and also think the Clark/Pacific SO disc is worth it for the Barber First Essay and Capricorn Concerto. Also, the Albany disc has the Harris 6th, a remarkable work that should be better known.



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Ephemerid

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2008, 01:45:21 PM »
mmmhhhh Knoxville: Summer of 1915 my favourite Barber

About the violin concerto-- I forget the violinist who originally commissioned the work, but the violinist was extremely disappointed with the first two movements-- not very "show off" material, and he griped to Barber about it.  So Barber ended up writing that dizzying finale and then the violinist complained that it was unplayable.  I forget if Barber actually got the commission money, but he found another violinist to premiere the work.  LOL

Offline Guido

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2008, 04:29:39 PM »
I think Alsop's recordings are just fine. The Capricorn concerto on Naxos is just perfect. The only recordings that I think are truly lacking are the piano concerto and the violin concerto - The piano concerto is much better done by Browning (ne of my all time favourite recordings), and for the violin concerto my favourite recording is Kyoko Takezawa's, though there are many good recordings of the latter. The cello concerto on Naxos with Wendy Warner is easily the finest on record - I wrote a load on this on the old board and feel to demoralized to type it all again. Trust me on this one!
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Offline drogulus

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2008, 03:41:07 PM »


     This disc is well worth it for the inclusion of all three Essays, as well as the Adagio and School for Scandal Overture. You could do worse than start a Barber collection here:

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johnQpublic

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2008, 10:31:02 AM »
  The piano concerto is much better done by Browning (ne of my all time favourite recordings)

YES, and the flip side of the original LP (that I still own) is a terrific "Song of Orpheus" by Schuman.

The Dance of Vengence is truly an exciting work, eh?

Offline The new erato

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2008, 02:18:33 PM »
mmmhhhh Knoxville: Summer of 1915 my favourite Barber

About the violin concerto-- I forget the violinist who originally commissioned the work, but the violinist was extremely disappointed with the first two movements-- not very "show off" material, and he griped to Barber about it.  So Barber ended up writing that dizzying finale and then the violinist complained that it was unplayable.  I forget if Barber actually got the commission money, but he found another violinist to premiere the work.  LOL
Interesting story, I find the finale of the concerto superficial and flashy and the main reason this is only a second-rank concerto for me.

And Knoxville is my favorite Barber work as well.

Offline Szykneij

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2008, 01:06:37 PM »
The cello concerto on Naxos with Wendy Warner is easily the finest on record - I wrote a load on this on the old board and feel to demoralized to type it all again. Trust me on this one!

I have the Raya Garbousova recording on Varese Sarabande, billed at the time (1978) as the ONLY AVAILABLE RECORDING - PERFORMED BY THE ARTIST WHO PREMIERED THE WORK. Garbousova played the piece for the first time in Boston in 1946 and championed the work through subsequent performances around the country. It is truly an excellent work and a fine performance. I'll look into getting the Wendy Warner recording.
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Offline Guido

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #18 on: May 31, 2008, 03:03:24 PM »
Unfortunately Garbousova was past her prime when she recorded that, so I definitely recommend getting the Wendy Warner recording in order to really feel the whole impact of the piece.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2008, 04:50:42 AM by Guido »
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Offline Lethevich

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Re: The Barber Chair
« Reply #19 on: May 31, 2008, 04:01:54 PM »
     This disc is well worth it for the inclusion of all three Essays, as well as the Adagio and School for Scandal Overture. You could do worse than start a Barber collection here:



I also rate this disc highly, excellent choices and playing all-round.
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