Welcome to the Early Songs of Samuel Barber! Florestan Recital Project is thrilled to present these world premiere recordings, the first in a series of releases celebrating one of America’s most important song composers, Samuel Barber.
Many of Barber’s songs have been enjoyed for decades as well-known American repertoire. In 2009, Florestan obtained special permission from the U.S. Library of Congress and Barber’s estate to reproduce the large amount of then-unpublished songs in manuscript form that had neither been heard often nor recorded. Florestan featured performances of these unpublished songs in our 2009 Barberfest festival, and it was a beautiful experience to see the handwriting, signatures, and playful illustrations of young Barber as he explored diverse poems and compositional textures.
Barber’s biographer, Barbara Heyman, contributed an excellent profile on Barber for the festival booklet, as well as background details of the specific songs included in this release. We are also including some tributes by other artists that worked with Barber at different points in his career. Their perspectives give us a sense of the special place Barber has in the history of American music.
Samuel Osborne Barber III began composing out of sheer love for the music and musicians that were around him when he was a child, and that love shaped his collaborations with fellow musicians throughout his life. He was not looking to be part of a vanguard of new composers, he was not attempting to explode ideas of lyricism or tonality, and one of his most important influences was his uncle Sidney Homer rather than a contemporary “school” of technique. However, he was one of the first American composers to be commissioned by major conductors, and he quickly became known throughout the U.S. and Europe as an example of American artistic promise and presence.
To hear Barber’s early songs today, within the vast range of American compositional voices, is both fitting and exciting. The melody that pervades his songs, as well as his ever-maturing appreciation for poetry and lyricism, seem strong and sure contrasts to the many innovations and experiments which occur throughout American music’s history. As 21st our canon, and we celebrate Samuel Barber as a passionate and important contributor to a continually expanding landscape.
We sincerely thank the Hampsong Foundation, G. Schirmer publishing, Barbara Heyman, the Library of Congress Music Division, SUNY Fredonia, and our many individual donors for making this release possible.
Enjoy the songs!
Florestan Recital Project
Aaron Engebreth, baritone
Alison d'Amato, pianist
Florestan was awarded the first American Song Initiative grant from The Hampsong Foundation for their world premiere recording project "The Early Songs of Samuel Barber."
Recorded in Juliet Rosch Recital Hall at SUNY Fredonia, on August 6, 2013
Bernd Gottinger, engineer and mastering
Aaron Engebreth, editing
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