LSM Newswire

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Curtis Celebrates Centenary of Samuel Barber (34) with New Production of Antony and Cleopatra by Curtis Opera Theatre

PHILADELPHIA A principal theme of the world-renowned Curtis Institute of Musics performance season is the 100th birthday of composer Samuel Barber (34), one of the schools most illustrious alumni. Events center around the Barber anniversary in March 2010, with Curtis 20/21, the schools contemporary music ensemble, performing an all-Barber program on the composers 100th birthday, March 9. Later that month, the Curtis Opera Theatre presents Barbers Antony and Cleopatra at the Perelman Theater in Philadelphias Kimmel Center, in a new production directed by Chas Rader-Shieber and conducted by George Manahan. Curtis On Tour marks the centenary with performances of Barbers String Quartet No. 1, the source of the famous Adagio for Strings, in New York and nationwide in February and March.

The Curtis Symphony Orchestra performs Barbers Symphony No. 1 under conductor Giancarlo Guerrero at Philadelphias Verizon Hall on April 24. Curtis alumni will also join the centennial celebrations, giving two special recitals at the schools Field Concert Hall in January and March; and Curtis student recitals from January through May also feature works by the celebrated alumnus.

One of the most important American composers of the last century, Samuel Barber (1910-81) made distinguished contributions to the orchestral, choral, operatic, piano and chamber music repertories. His Adagio for Strings is widely considered a modern masterpiece. Barber came from a musical family, and was among the first students to enter the Curtis Institute of Music when it opened in 1924. Studying composition with Rosario Scalero and piano with the renowned Isabelle Vengerova, he added a third major, voice, in 1926. It was while studying at Curtis that he met his future collaborator and life-partner, opera composer and librettist Gian Carlo Menotti (33).

Even before his graduation from Curtis in 1934, Barbers works were premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Eugene Ormandy. The composer soon established himself within Americas classical community, winning the favor of such important artists as Koussevitzky and Horowitz.

While espousing no one school or style, Barber has sometimes been labeled neo-Romantic. His work is essentially tonal, and yet too dissonant and experimental to be considered anything but modern. His numerous honors include two Pulitzer Prizes, the Rome Prize, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

On the 100th anniversary of Barbers birth, March 9, 2010, Curtis 20/21 the schools contemporary music ensemble, dedicated to the music of the 20th and 21st centuries presents a celebratory program in Field Concert Hall. Curtis 20/21 will perform vocal and chamber works by Barber, and Barber-inspired works by Curtis alumnus Jonathan Holland (96) and current student Christopher Rogerson. Two days earlier, the same concert will be performed in Barbers hometown, West Chester, PA, at his family church, the First Presbyterian Church; and on March 15, Curtis 20/21 takes the celebratory program to the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

Also in March, the Curtis Opera Theatre will present Barbers Antony and Cleopatra at the Perelman Theater at Philadelphias Kimmel Center. This new production is directed by Chas Rader-Shieber, described as a force to be reckoned with in the opera world (Torontos Classical 96.3 FM). Presented in association with Kimmel Center Presents and the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the production features a cast of Curtis opera and voice students with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra under George Manahan. The opera was first performed in New York City in 1966, at the grand opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House, and then substantially revised eight years later, with the help of Menotti. Writing in the New York Times in 1984, Tim Page reported that Barber always felt that Antony and Cleopatra was his finest work. After Manahan conducted a performance of the opera at Carnegie Hall this past January, the New York Timess Anthony Tommasini praised the fervent and sensitive performance that Mr. Manahan presided over, and described the work itself:

Barbers score is rich with restless chromatic harmony, arching melodic outpourings, lush orchestration, percussive flourishes to evoke the conquering Romans, and reedy, harmonically astringent writing to conjure up Egyptian exotica. Ķ[I]n recent decades plenty of safely conventional, neo-Romantic new operas have been produced that showed nothing like the intelligence and ingenuity of this Barber work.

Curtis On Tour, which continues to bring the extraordinary artistry of the Curtis Institute to audiences nationwide and abroad, marks the centenary with performances of Barbers String Quartet No. 1 (1936), whose slow movement is the source of his popular Adagio for Strings. Violinist Ida Kavafian and cellist Peter Wiley (74), both Curtis faculty members, appear with Curtis students on the 2009-10 tour, which includes a special New York appearance on March 10 at the Allen Room in Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center. One of New Yorks most spectacular venues, this lovely setting overlooks Central Park South. Its superb acoustic will beautifully complement a program that presents the Barber quartet alongside Dvorks Piano Quintet No. 2 and world premieres of new works commissioned from two current composition students at Curtis: Christopher Rogerson and Daniel Shapiro. In addition to the New York performance, stops on the tour include Detroit, MI; Davis, CA; Seattle, WA; Rockport, ME; and Highland Park, IL.

Called an orchestra that any city would be lucky to have as its professional ensemble (Philadelphia Inquirer) and praised for its professional level of sophistication (New York Times), the Curtis Symphony Orchestra performs Samuel Barbers Symphony No. 1 under conductor Giancarlo Guerrero on April 24 at Verizon Hall. Barber wrote his first symphony a one-movement work in three sections in Rome in 1936 after winning the Rome Prize. In his program note for the New York premiere the following year, the composer described its form as a synthetic treatment of the four-movement classical symphony; the New York Times reports that warm applauseĶgreeted the world premiere, and the work has since been praised for the compositional mastery and sincerity of feeling [Barber] commanded in it (Londons Independent, 1992). Rounding out the April program will be Mussorgskys Songs and Dances of Death, featuring soloist John Relyea (96); Ligetis Atmosphres; and Strausss Also sprach Zarathustra.

January 17 sees the first of two Curtis alumni events in the schools Field Concert Hall celebrating the centennial. The Dolce Suono Ensemble offers a performance titled Samuel Barber at 100 The Composer and His World. Founded by flutist and artistic director Mimi Stillman (99), the Dolce Suono Ensemble includes many Curtis alumni. The group will perform music by Barber and his contemporaries and successors, all of whom have connections to Curtis, from emeritus faculty member Ned Rorem (44) to current faculty member Jennifer Higdon (88). Soon after the centenary itself, on March 16, Leon McCawley (95) performs a piano recital juxtaposing Barbers works with those of Chopin. McCawley, whose extensive discography includes Barbers complete works for piano on the EMI/Virgin Classics label, is a leading member of Englands new generation of pianists. The New York Times described his New York debut as a lyrical, heartfelt performance.

A chronological listing of Curtiss Barber centenary performances follows.

About the Curtis Institute of Music

Described by the New York Times as one of Americas elite conservatories and recently highlighted in U.S. News and World Reports 2010 college survey as the most selective institution in the United States for students seeking a bachelors degree, the world-renowned Curtis Institute of Music presents an exciting season with more than 130 concerts, operas, and recitals. With an enrollment of 160, Curtis provides an intimate environment in which students receive personalized attention from a celebrated faculty. A busy schedule of performances is at the heart of Curtiss distinctive learn by doing approach. Since the schools founding in 1924, this philosophy has produced an impressive number of notable artists, from such legends as Barber and Leonard Bernstein to current stars Juan Diego Flrez, Alan Gilbert, Hilary Hahn, Jennifer Higdon, Lang Lang, and Time for Three.


Samuel Barber Centenary

2009-10 Season

Sunday, January 17 at 3pm

Guest recital: Dolce Suono Ensembles Samuel Barber at 100 The Composer and His World

Field Concert Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, 1726 Locust Street, Philadelphia

Barber Summer Music; Capricorn Concerto

Rorem Trio

Higdon Autumn Music

Ludwig Haiku Catharsis

February 26 March 26

Curtis On Tour (venues and dates below)

Barber String Quartet No. 1, Op.11

Rogerson Lullaby: no bad dreams

Shapiro Sonata for Viola and Piano

Dvork Piano Quintet No. 2 in A, Op. 81

Ida Kavafian and Benjamin Beilman, violins; Hyo Bi Sim, viola; Peter Wiley, cello (74); Yekwon Sunwoo, piano

Philadelphia Friday, February 26 at 8pm

Detroit Sunday, February 28 at 7pm

Seattle Tuesday, March 2 at 7:30pm

Davis, CA Saturday, March 6 at 8pm and Sunday, March 7 at 2pm

New York Wednesday, March 10 at 8pm

Kennett Square, PA Saturday, March 13 at 8pm

Orono, ME Friday, March 19 at 8pm

Rockport, ME Saturday, March 20 at 7pm

Highland Park, IL Friday, March 26 at 8pm

For ticket and venue information, visit

Tuesday, March 9 at 8pm

Curtis 20/21: Samuel Barber Centenary Celebration

Field Concert Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, 1726 Locust Street, Philadelphia

Barber Hermit Songs; Dover Beach; Sonata in E-flat minor; Summer Music

Rogerson Lullaby: no bad dreams

Holland commissioned work TBA

This program will also be performed on March 7 at 3pm at First Presbyterian Church, West Chester, PA; and on March 15 at 12pm at Coolidge Auditorium of Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Tuesday, March 16 at 8pm

Guest recital: Leon McCawley, piano (95)

Field Concert Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, 1726 Locust Street, Philadelphia

Chopin Four Mazurkas, Op. 6; Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35;

Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 1

Barber Excursions; Nocturne: Homage to John Field; Sonata in E-flat minor

Wednesday, March 17 at 7:30pm

Friday, March 19 at 8pm

Sunday, March 21 at 2:30pm

Barber: Antony and Cleopatra

Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia

Curtis Opera Theatre

George Manahan, conductor

Chas Rader-Shieber, stage director

Presented by Kimmel Center Presents in association with the Opera Company of Philadelphia

Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 8pm

Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia

Curtis Symphony Orchestra

Jack Wolgin Orchestral Concerts

Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor

John Relyea, bass-baritone (96)

Barber Symphony No. 1

Mussorgsky Songs and Dances of Death

Ligeti Atmosphres

R. Strauss Also sprach Zarathustra



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