Samuel Barber

Violin Concerto, Op. 14

    Description by Rovi Staff

    Given the lush, lyrical, Romantic propensities of Samuel Barber's music, it should come as no surprise that the composer achieved great success in that most Romantic of genres, the solo instrumental concerto. Indeed, Barber wrote a concerto for each of the "Big Three" concerto instruments: piano, violin, and cello, producing a trio of works that have earned a secure place in the standard repertoire. With an extensive timbral palette and the opportunity for virtuosic display at his disposal, Barber made full use of the concerto's possibilities, from exquisitely colored, tender lyricism to splashy, breathless pyrotechnics.

    Excepting a now-lost piano concerto the composer wrote at the age of 20, the Violin Concerto was Barber's first essay in the genre. The story of its creation and its delayed premiere was misrepresented for decades after the publication of Nathan Broder's biography of Barber in 1954. Soap tycoon Samuel Fels offered a substantial fee to Barber to write a work for the young Russian-born violinist Iso Briselli. What happened after Barber delivered the first two movements to Briselli was clarified in the early 21st century when letters from all parties were compared together. After seeing the beauty of those movements, Briselli suggested the finale might show more of the violin's virtuosic possibilities. Barber complied, producing a brief moto perpetuo of under four minutes' duration, less than half as long as either of the other movements. The violinist felt the movement simply did not fit with the other two, not that it was too difficult or unplayable as the story had been told. There were never any hard feelings between the men. Briselli relinquished his rights to premiere the work, and Fels allowed Barber to keep the portion of the commission he had already been paid. The work was successfully premiered on February 7, 1941, by Albert Spalding and the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy.

    Although the concerto's Allegro is marked by a predominantly lyrical, even vernal, quality, the movement is hardly free of the conflict and high drama typifying the concerto tradition. The flowing, organic material that opens the movement is contrasted by a short, distinctive iambic rhythmic figure that recurs in various guises throughout. The characteristically lyrical Andante, which, like so many of Barber's slow movements, possesses a melancholic, elegiac quality, is tinged with a certain mercurial moodiness. The final perpetual-motion Presto is a breathless, nonstop whirlwind that races by in a steady, virtually uninterrupted rhythmic flow illuminated by brilliant flashes of color.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro
    2. Andante
    3. Presto in moto perpetuo

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2020
    BIS
    BIS 2440
    2019
    Decca Gold
    2018
    ABC Classics
    2018
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 18095
    2016
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4796220
    2016
    Alto
    MCS 1309
    2015
    Warner Classics
    552368
    2015
    Music & Arts
    MACD 1282
    2015
    Sony Classical
    88875126182
    2014
    Canary Classics
    CC 12
    2014
    Various Artists
    Sony Classical
    88843047122
    2014
    Entertainment One / eOne
    EOMCD 7791
    2013
    Entertainment Group
    14149
    2013
    MSR Classics
    MS 1459
    2012
    Champs Hill Records
    CHRCD 043
    2012
    Oehms Classics
    OC 799
    2012
    Entertainment Group
    12605
    2011
    Decca
    2011
    Entertainment Group
    1211
    2011
    Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution
    88697950692
    2011
    Various Artists
    Decca
    4782826
    2011
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4779827
    2011
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2011
    Signum Classics
    SIGCD 238
    2010
    Naxos
    8506021
    2010
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099968728
    2010
    EMI Classics
    2010
    Sony Music Distribution
    770278
    2009
    Sony BMG / Sony Classical
    88697529892
    2009
    BIS
    1662
    2009
    Various Artists
    Decca
    2009
    Various Artists
    Decca
    4781149
    2008
    EMI Classics
    2081242
    2008
    EMI Classics
    08286
    2008
    EMI Classics
    2008
    Sony Classical Essential Classics
    88697306012
    2008
    EMI Classics
    2008
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099920662
    2007
    Eroica Distribution
    3195
    2006
    CBC Records
    5241
    2006
    Onyx Classics
    ONYX 4016
    2006
    Sony Classical Essential Classics
    82876881442
    2006
    Brilliant
    93030
    2005
    Regis Records
    1100
    2005
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243586561
    2005
    Rca Red Seal
    65832
    2005
    EMI Music Distribution
    76804
    2004
    Capriccio Records
    67071
    2004
    Music & Arts
    1146
    2003
    Sony Classical
    90390
    2003
    EMI Classics
    62600
    2003
    EMI Classics
    85083
    2002
    Naxos
    8559044
    2002
    Various Artists
    ASV / Sanctuary
    PLT 8501
    2001
    EMI Music Distribution
    74287
    2000
    Sony Classical
    89029
    1998
    Russian Revelation
    10058
    1998
    Crystal Records Dist.
    514
    1997
    London
    452851
    1997
    Sony Music Distribution
    SMK-63088
    1997
    Telarc Distribution
    CD80441
    1997
    One-Eleven
    96030
    1996
    RCA
    68283
    1995
    Sony Music Distribution
    67194
    1995
    Sony Classical
    64506
    1995
    EMI Music Distribution
    55360
    1995
    ABC Classics
    770004
    1994
    Deutsche Grammophon
    439886
    1993
    Reference Recordings
    45
    1992
    Nimbus
    5329
    1992
    EMI Music Distribution
    54314
    1990
    EMI Music Distribution
    47850
    Canyon Classics
    3699
    Decca
    000797002
    Albany Music Distribution
    1148
    RPO
    5002
    RCA
    60717
    Collins Records
    1383
    Brilliant
    93030/5
    Music & Arts
    667
    Rca Red Seal
    74321 98704-2
    Erato
    New York Philharmonic