Samuel Barber (’34): Summer Music
Emma Resmini, flute
Virginia McDowell, oboe
Yuhsin Su, clarinet
Maggie O’Leary, bassoon
Bryn Coveney, horn
Previously broadcast live on Friday, March 31, 2017
Field Concert Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia
At a time when composers of the European and American avant-garde were shaking the foundations of music, Samuel Barber (1910–81) staked out a modern mainstream style that helped to make him one of the most popular and widely performed American composers of the 20th century. Barber was born in West Chester, Pa., and spent most of his life in Philadelphia—where he studied at the Curtis Institute of Music from 1924 to 1934—and Mt. Kisco, New York. He composed in most of the major genres: operas, orchestral pieces, concertos, chamber music, choral works, songs, and piano music.
“Summer meaning languid, not killing mosquitoes”—thus did Barber explain the image behind this piece, which was premiered in 1956 by members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Though by no means a light or breezy work, Summer Music shows Barber in an idyllic mood, in striking contrast to other of his works from this period, such as the weighty Piano Sonata (1949) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Vanessa (1957). It consists of a single movement with contrasting sections, culminating in an episode where various themes heard earlier appear in succession. A flurry of notes brings the work to a playful close.