Barber – Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 38

by Max Derrickson

Samuel Barber   (Born in West Chester, PA, 1910; died in New York, 1981)


Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 38
1. Allegro appasionata
2. Canzona – Moderato
3. Allegro molto


Barber began showing his precocious musical talent by age seven. He studied voice and piano seriously at home inWest Chester,Pennsylvania, until, at 14, he was accepted by the newly formed Curtis Institute of Music inPhiladelphia.  His young life was filled with art music by the influence of his aunt and uncle – his Aunt Louise a singer at the Metropolitan Opera.  Soon after he graduated from Curtis, he won the coveted Prix de Rome for composition.

Despite that during Barber’s lifetime another American, Aaron Copland, was taking his seat as “the Dean of American composers,” the world seemed to gravitate towards Barber.  He won two Pulitzer Prizes (the second for his Piano Concerto) [. . .]

Barber’s publisher, G. Schirmer, Inc., commissioned the Piano Concerto in 1959 for its 100th Anniversary occurring in 1962, and the work was to be premiered at theLincolnCenter’s Grand Opening Gala Concert of that year.  Having heard first hand the extraordinary talents of the young pianist John Browning, Barber worked on his Piano Concerto with Browning’s talents in mind.  [. . .]  The first movement is charged with electrical force, from anxiousness to triumph.  The second movement, Canzona, is one of Barber’s most bittersweet creations: [. . .]