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 Label Catalog #
    2018 ABC Classics
    2016 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 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 Decca 4782826
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779827
    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 Decca
    2009 Decca 4781149
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 EMI Classics 08286
    2008 EMI Classics 2081242
    2008 Sony Classical Essential Classics 88697306012
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099920662
    2008 EMI Classics
    2007 Eroica Distribution 3195
    2006 Onyx Classics ONYX 4016
    2006 CBC Records 5241
    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 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