Cover image for Samuel Barber the composer and his music
Samuel Barber the composer and his music
Publication Information:
New York ; Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1994, 1992.
Physical Description:
xviii, 586 p. : ill., ports., music, facsims.
Added Corporate Author:


Material Type
Shelf Number
Ebook XX(1324738.1) 1

On Order



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 andforms 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 OperaHouse 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 isclosely 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 musicaltastes 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.

Reviews 2

Choice Review

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. Clearly and engagingly written, thorough yet never pedantic, sympathetic but not hagiographical, Heyman's study provides a painstaking consideration of every aspect of the composer's life, drawing frequently upon a rich trove of letters both to and from Barber. (One wonders what will happen to biography when people no longer write letters, even if few artists and fewer composers can boast Barber's literary skill.) Heyman does not pretend to deal exhaustively with Barber's music, although the many musical examples and her pointed commentary considerably enhance her book. Others may delve more deeply into the technicalities of Barber's art, but it is unlikely that anyone will add much to a consideration of his life, his family, his background, his education, his associates, or the curve of his career. Barber occupies a secure position in the small group of truly important American composers. Heyman's study goes far to explain why. The book includes a list of works, a bibliography, extensive notes, and an index. All libraries. F. Goossen; University of Alabama

Library Journal Review

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. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.