Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Friday, April 5

Barber's Cello Concerto

Synopsis

In a 1964 essay, the American composer Samuel Barber wrote: “I want my music to be of use to people, to please them, to enhance their lives... I do not write for posterity.” And in a 1979 interview, he said: “I write for the present, and I write for myself... I think that most music that is really good will be appreciated by the audience—ultimately.”

Barber was 35 years old when he composed his Cello Concerto in 1945, finishing the work around the same time he was discharged from the U.S. Army Air Corps. The Concerto was written for the cellist Raya Garbousova, who gave the premiere performance of the work with the Boston Symphony under Serge Koussevitzky on today’s date in 1946.

The new Concerto was warmly received in Boston, and even won an award from New York music critics. Oddly enough, soon after its premiere, Barber’s Cello Concerto was pretty much ignored for several decades, and to date has yet to catch on with performers or audiences to the same degree as his earlier Violin Concerto—another work that took quite a while to become popular.

Still, in recent years both performers and audiences seem more than willing to revisit ALL of Barber’s scores, including his Cello Concerto, and a major reappraisal of Barber seems well underway, and, to paraphrase the composer, we think most of Barber’s music that is really good will be appreciated by audiences—ultimately.

Music Played in Today's Program

Samuel Barber (1910 -1981) Cello Concerto Yo Yo Ma, cello; Baltimore Symphony; David Zinman, cond. CBS/Sony 44900

Additional Information

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