Samuel Barber

The School for Scandal, overture for orchestra, Op. 5

    Description by Roy Brewer

    With the stunning success of his first orchestral work, Overture to The School for Scandal (1931-1933), Samuel Barber was recognized as one of the most promising talents of his generation. Over the following four decades, he emerged as one of the signal personalities in American music and produced a body of works that have become staples -- orchestral, chamber, vocal, operatic -- of the concert repertoire. Richard Sheridan's play The School for Scandal (1777) is a comedy of manners that contains plenty of wit and amorous intrigue. Barber's overture is not so much incidental music as it is a sophisticated tone poem; while it wasn't written for any particular production of the play, it deftly captures the atmosphere of Sheridan's work. Characterized by the composer's trademark lyricism and effervescent, frolicsome orchestral color, the music convincingly reflects the play's general tone. The overture is a miniature rondo in which themes and fragments of themes are intertwined with all the ingenuity of Sheridan's complicated story. The splashy, hectic opening is followed by a pastoral theme for oboe, repeated by lushly scored strings. The slyly twisted tonality of the middle section provides subtle allusion to the scheming and duplicity that make up the play's tortuous plot. Barber makes ingenious use of the children's game-song, "I sent a letter to my love," while harmonic conflicts and rhythmic eccentricities maintain the buoyant mood. A thoroughly modern work with no concessions to 18th century pastiche, this composition possesses all the glitter and panache of a true theater piece and remains a firm favorite with concert audiences.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Chandos CHAN 20088
    2016 Klavier Records K 11210
    2012 Naxos 8559709
    2012 Altissimo ALT 61042
    2012 Chandos CHAN 24144
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099994895223
    2011 EMI Classics
    2011 Decca
    2010 Naxos 8506021
    2010 Urania 22419
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099968728
    2010 EMI Classics
    2010 Sony Music Distribution 770278
    2009 Sony BMG / Sony Classical 88697529892
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099920662
    2005 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243586561
    2005 Sony Music Distribution 92988
    2003 Telarc Distribution 80632
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 74287
    2000 Naxos 8559024
    1999 Pearl GEM0049
    1998 Chandos 9684
    1997 Sony Music Distribution MHK62837
    1995 Vox 5091
    1994 Delos 3180
    1992 Argo 436288
    1992 Chandos 8958
    1992 Delos 3078
    1992 Delos 3508
    1992 Telarc Distribution 80250
    1989 EMI Music Distribution 49463
    Excelsior Recordings 5214
    As Disc 515
    EMI Music Distribution 64303
    Mark Custom Recording 1649
    Stradivari 8012