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Samuel Barber: The Composer and His Music [Paperback]

Barbara B. Heyman
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 1 1995
Samuel Barber (1910-1981) was one of the most important and honored American composers of the twentieth century. Writing in a great variety of musical forms--symphonies, concertos, operas, vocal music, and chamber music--he infused his works with poetic lyricism and gave tonal language and forms new vitality. His rich legacy includes such famous compositions as the Adagio for Strings, the orchestral song Knoxville: Summer of 1915, three concertos, and his two operas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Vanessa and Antony and Cleopatra, a commissioned work that opened the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center. Generously documented by letters, sketchbooks, original musical manuscripts, and interviews with friends, colleagues and performers with whom he worked, this is the first book to cover Barber's entire career and all of his compositions. The biographical material on Barber is closely interspersed with a discussion of his music, displaying Barber's creative processes at work from his early student compositions to his mature masterpieces. Heyman also provides the social context in which this major composer grew: his education, how he built his career, the evolving musical tastes of American audiences, his relationship to musical giants like Serge Koussevitzky, and the role of radio in the promotion of his music. A testament to the significance of the new Romanticism, Samuel Barber stands as a model biography of an important American musical figure.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

Eleven years after his death, the American composer Barber is the subject of a large-scale biography, the first since 1955 (Nathan Broder, Samuel Barber , LJ 12/15/54). Based on the author's Ph.D. dissertation, this exhaustively documented study makes extensive use of original sources, including correspondence, manuscripts, and interviews. Unfortunately, the material is quite poorly organized. The biographical narrative is constantly disrupted by lengthy, discursive discussions of Barber's compositions. Treating the "life" and "works" separately (cf. Eric W. White's Stravinsky: A Critical Survey , Greenwood, 1979, or Maynard Solomon's Beethoven , LJ 11/15/77) would have been much clearer and more user-friendly. Despite these major problems, this book is recommended for large music collections because it represents such thorough research. For others, the article on Barber in the New Grove Dictionary of American Music will suffice.
- Eugene Gaub, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"For the reader interested in a particular repertory, Heyman's approach is perfect....Heyman's book provides choral musicians a valuable resource for the study and performance of Barber's music."--Choral Journal

"Would that every American composer might be as well served as is Samuel Barber by Barbara Heyman, whose book will, as critic Michael Steinberg observed, 'be the foundation of all Barber scholarship forever.'...A bold claim, but one borne out by a careful reading of Heyman's text."--Choice

"We can be grateful for Barbara Heyman's exhaustive assemblage of fact and opinion."--Yale Review

"So striking and sound in its discussion of his works that it gives a hefty boost to Barber scholarship and suggests a model for other such studies....A clear, rich, and accessible pool of indispensable information....The book, like the composer, emerges as a boon and a triumph."--Institute for Studies in American Music Newsletter

"Barbara Heyman has worked diligently and intelligently to produce a book which will be the foundation of all Barber scholarship forever, to which all writers on American music will be turning constantly and for which we shall be immensely grateful. I was completely absorbed in the reading of it."--Michael Steinberg, San Francisco Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra

"[A] comprehensive study. [Heyman] has brought to bear a formidable knowledge of Barber's music and its genesis, together with a sympathetic appreciation of his life, to produce a portrait which, in factual terms at least, may be considered definitive."--Music and Letters

"[Heyman] brings together a great amount of detail and documentation that makes this book a necessary point of reference."--The Musical Times

"Here is a cornicopia of data on the works of Samuel Barber....Through diligent investigation of and liberal quotations from letters, interviews, programs, reviews, books, articles, marginalia, and private tapes and films, Barbara Heyman gives us all manner of details about the background, performances, recordings, and reception of all Barber's compositions....The detail is virtually staggering....The abundance of interesting photographs and the presence of so many intelligently selected musical examples from manuscripts and published scores is laudable....This book will be consulted for many generations because of its marvelous, original data on Barber's works."--American Music

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Although there are many legendary stories about composers, especially if they were child prodigies, this Barber legend is supported by material evidence, for the note itself has been preserved. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
As a lifelong student of Barber and his music, I was thrilled at the depth and scope of this work. It contains many musical examples and, most tellingly, reveals what music Barber loved and was studying when he composed various works. And it doesn't pull any punches in its treatment of Barber's tendencies toward depression and alcoholism. I spoke to Barbara Heyman a few years ago and she said she was working on a companion volume but had no firm idea when it might be published. We can only hope it will be soon!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great biography! March 27 2001
Format:Paperback
I read this book with the same excitement that I would a... thriller. It is exciting to find out so much about a manwhose music is among America's best! Barbara Heyman has captured thespirit of Samuel Barber's life and compiled it into a readableorganized format. Be sure to read all of the footnotes/endnotes.They contain some of the most wonderful tidbits of information.Authoritative writing!
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars The authoritative biography on Barber April 26 1999
Format:Paperback
This is the authoritative biography of Barber. Heyman is a first rate scholar and has published an incredibly comprehensive work. It covers every detail of his life. It also corrects several inaccuracies of the previous coveted Nathan Broder publication. (Completion dates of several works that have been researched through his letters.)
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As close to a "definitive" study as we're ever likely to see April 30 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As a lifelong student of Barber and his music, I was thrilled at the depth and scope of this work. It contains many musical examples and, most tellingly, reveals what music Barber loved and was studying when he composed various works. And it doesn't pull any punches in its treatment of Barber's tendencies toward depression and alcoholism. I spoke to Barbara Heyman a few years ago and she said she was working on a companion volume but had no firm idea when it might be published. We can only hope it will be soon!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Done June 6 2006
By Scott D. Scheule - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Well, I thought the book was a respectable mix of biographical information and analysis, not too much of one or the other. It is organized (roughly) by opus number, meaning one can find virtually all the information about a specific work condensed in a particular section--with the overall outline being chronological. This structuring is easy and accessible.

Theory hogs, like me, may want a few more examples--but if so, we're just being greedy. The author's analyses of the works are well-done, cursory without being useless. She neither fawns over her subject, nor butchers him. Perhaps a bit more biographical information would be nice--Barber's love life is always touched upon at tangents, never explained. But maybe such information is simply not to be found.

The esoteric nature of the subject precludes me from recommending it generally--but for anyone with the slightest interest in Mr. Barber, this is certainly one of the best resources out there.

And what do we say of Samuel? Reactionary, fuddy-duddy? Snobbish European turning his back on his American home, or a man who simply recognizes good music when he hears it? Or, like Brahms, a fusion of past and present who only appears conservative when compared with the silly extremists? I lean towards the latter.

Barber enjoyed Brahms, and there's a similarity stapling the two together here. Both took a rich harmonic and modern language, Brahms with his soup of pivot chords and chromatic thirds, Barber with his polychords, changing meters, and quartal implications, reinvigorating ideas and forms that some describe as depleted. And both were, in some sense, fearless. Now of course neither was immune to public opinion--the failure of Anthony and Cleopatra cracked off a bit of Barber's heart--but nevertheless, we find two men who by and large did not care to defend their artistic choices. Barber wrote music of lyrical melodic line when the flavor de jure was prickly textures or avant-garde nonsense.

I have no opinion on whether or not that was the right decision; but I bestow the highest respect on Barber's intense drive for perfection. 71 years he lived, and left behind a paucity--but a paucity of perfection. The concertos are jewels! The songs are staples (or should be)! Barber forced and tempered his creations: many works were revised after the first performance--and, which is to be respected all the more--usually made shorter by it. Excess notes deleted, and tight statements left behind.

This book honors that aspect of him well, and I'm glad to have gotten to know him through it.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great biography! March 27 2001
By Thomas C. Nagy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read this book with the same excitement that I would a... thriller. It is exciting to find out so much about a manwhose music is among America's best! Barbara Heyman has captured thespirit of Samuel Barber's life and compiled it into a readableorganized format. Be sure to read all of the footnotes/endnotes.They contain some of the most wonderful tidbits of information.Authoritative writing!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The authoritative biography on Barber April 26 1999
By Jonathan Girard (jgirard@mail.hartford.edu) - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the authoritative biography of Barber. Heyman is a first rate scholar and has published an incredibly comprehensive work. It covers every detail of his life. It also corrects several inaccuracies of the previous coveted Nathan Broder publication. (Completion dates of several works that have been researched through his letters.)
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC book!!! Oct. 17 2005
By Jennifer L. Barrett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'm currently researching Barber for my Masters Thesis. This is the best book available currently on Barber. The variety of information and sources she offers is excellent. In addition to the biographical information, Heyman presents each of his pieces in reference to certain time periods of his life and goes on to discuss these pieces in depth. An incredibly valuable resource for me and anyone interested in Samuel Barber.
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