Barber – Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14

by Max Derrickson

Samuel Barber   (b West Chester, PA, 9 March 1910; New York, 23 Jan. 1981)

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14
1. Allegro
2. Andante
3. Presto in moto


[. . .]  There is a lyrical, vocal beauty about many of Samuel Barber’s works, which is supremely evident in his Violin Concerto.  As the first measures begin, Barber’s love of writing music for the voice is splendidly evident as the violin sings a beatific and melismatic rhapsody.  Barber’s keen sense of balance soon presents itself, however, as the sweetness is replaced with a jarry tune like an Irish seafaring song, followed by some surely unrhapsodic dissonance where a very clever use of the piano adds to its anxious pathos.  The movement then develops these three seemingly incompatible elements at length, yet keeps them woven into the piece’s lyrical tone.  The movement draws serenely to a calmly pulsing close.   [. . .]  cease with the finale.  Its tempo marking, Presto in moto (very fast perpetual motion) is indeed what we get.  Beginning with the timpani’s racing triplets, the violin quickly takes up the challenge at breakneck speed with triplet patterns almost until the end.  As the violin’s histrionics sale by, virtually all the instruments in the orchestra whirligig along with matching virtuosity.  From a maddening driven-ness to a hopped-up Irish jig, and all things in between at high speed, Barber’s finale is utterly manic, like a rock tumbling at full speed down the side of a mountain.  The Concerto culminates with syncopated punctuations in the brass, punching their way to a breathless end.