Photo: G. Schirmer, Inc.
The Links: Everything Samuel Barber
I found Barberís music rather innocently, not suspecting the level of adoration I would soon possess. In the Fall semester, the Minot State University Wind Ensemble performed Commando March. The music seemed to get to me so it was "under my skin." I loved the rich brass sounds, the bits of solo percussion near the beginning of the piece, the seamless craftsmanship that hid a shifting beat in the middle section. For me it was just a wonderful piece of music to play and hear.
Sometime later in the same semester, one of the mezzo-sopranos sang the aria "Must the Winter Come So Soon?" from Barberís opera Vanessa. The performance had subtlety and artistry. My many compliments went to that lovely mezzo while I then found a new piece of music and a new one of my favorite composers.
From those two events came my first knowledge of Barber along with the desire to know more. I felt as if compelled. I started to by sheet music and recordings. The Adagio for Strings, op. 11, was very famous. Once I finally heard the music, I knew exactly why it was so. It spoke to my heart in a language that only music knows. I played the piece to an alto friend of mine. When she heard it, she stood before the speakers with closed eyes as if transfixed. When the music was complete, she told me that listening to it felt as an orgasm put into music.
I was sure of my Barber adoration by my third year of study. In that year I bought myself a new oboe. When choosing the oboe, I asked for the help and advice of my friend and mentor, Ron Royer. I took my oboes to Ron and he played for me many excellent excerpts of oboe and English horn literature. One of the pieces was the oboe solo from the third movement of the First Symphony. It was "like chocolate" according to Ron. Here again I found that unspeakable joy in the music of Samuel Barber.
My friend Joe calls me a "Barber freak." I feel identified with Barberís music as if it is my very own. At the end of 1997 I heard on a friendís car stereo the song that Sean "Puffy" Combs, had used Agnus Dei (vocal arrangement of Adagio for Strings) on his album No Way Out. For a while I felt shocked. Barberís music is so personal to me that it felt as if Puffy had taken something of my very own without asking for permission.
I have gotten over Puffy, and I share the music of Barber with all my friends. I played Adagio for Strings for an old friend of mine who sat on the floor just listening to the music. After the musical climax he said the simple yet profound "Wow."
I think so, too.
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Last update: July 23, 2003