Samuel Barber: His Life and Legacy (Music in American Life) (Hardcover)

Samuel Barber: His Life and Legacy (Music in American Life) By Howard Pollack Cover Image

Samuel Barber: His Life and Legacy (Music in American Life) (Hardcover)


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A pivotal twentieth-century composer, Samuel Barber earned a long list of honors and accolades that included two Pulitzer Prizes for Music and the public support of conductors like Arturo Toscanini, Serge Koussevitzky, and Leonard Bernstein. Barber’s works have since become standard concert repertoire and continue to flourish across high art and popular culture.

Acclaimed biographer Howard Pollack (Aaron Copland, George Gershwin) offers a multifaceted account of Barber’s life and music while placing the artist in his social and cultural milieu. Born into a musical family, Barber pursued his artistic ambitions from childhood. Pollack follows Barber’s path from his precocious youth through a career where, from the start, the composer consistently received prizes, fellowships, and other recognition. Stylistic analyses of works like the Adagio for Strings, the Violin Concerto, Knoxville: Summer of 1915 for voice and orchestra, the Piano Concerto, and the operas Vanessa and Antony and Cleopatra, stand alongside revealing accounts of the music’s commissioning, performance, reception, and legacy. Throughout, Pollack weaves in accounts of Barber’s encounters with colleagues like Aaron Copland and Francis Poulenc, performers from Eleanor Steber and Leontyne Price to Vladimir Horowitz and Van Cliburn, patrons, admirers, and a wide circle of eminent friends and acquaintances. He also provides an eloquent portrait of the composer’s decades-long relationship with the renowned opera composer Gian Carlo Menotti.

Informed by new interviews and immense archival research, Samuel Barber is a long-awaited critical and personal biography of a monumental figure in twentieth-century American music.

Howard Pollack is the John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Music at the University of Houston. His books include Aaron Copland: The Life and of an Uncommon Man,George Gershwin: His Life and Work, and Marc Blitzstein: His Life, His Work, His World.
Product Details ISBN: 9780252044908
ISBN-10: 0252044908
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Publication Date: April 4th, 2023
Pages: 744
Language: English
Series: Music in American Life
"Howard Pollack's 'Samuel Barber: His Life and Legacy,' which continues his remarkable series of books on American composers and lyricists, may be the finest biography of an American classical musician since Anthony Tommasini's 'Virgil Thomson: Composer on the Aisle.'. . . Pollack is a master of writing about artistic creation without forbidding jargon, his explanations of Barber's music are just as arresting as the biographical passages." --Wall Street Journal

"Will surely be the authoritative work on talented composer Barber for decades to come. This monumental book is both the account of a fascinating life and a detailed assessment of the composer's works." --Library Journal, starred review

“Richly detailed, beautifully written, and as humane as it is observant, Howard Pollack’s biography paints a convincing portrait not only of Samuel Barber himself, but of the unique milieu that shaped his music and character. Sam began as my mentor and later became my colleague and friend; I recognize him throughout this remarkable book.”--John Corigliano, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer

“This critical biography will no doubt become a foundational text. Pollack humanizes Barber by providing new insights, information, and perspectives about him that include religious, political, social, and cultural issues, and details about his interactions with an array of artists, friends, and institutions. The author’s flowing style provides a meaty narrative for general readers while his use and interpretation of an exhaustive trove of sources will serve scholars for years to come.”--Sally Bick, author of Unsettled Scores: Politics, Hollywood, and the Film Music of Aaron Copland and Hanns Eisler