Summer Music Op.31

Composer: Samuel Barber (b. 1910 - d. 1981)
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Composer: Samuel Barber (b. 1910 - d. 1981)

Performance date: 26/06/2022

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1956

Duration: 00:12:42

Recording Engineer: Simon Cullen, Ergodos

Instrumentation: fl, ob, cl, bn, hn

Instrumentation Category:Wind Quintet

Artists: Orsino Ensemble (Adam Walker [flute], Nicholas Daniel [oboe], Matt Hunt [clarinet], Alec Frank-Gemmill [horn] Bram van Sambeek [bassoon]) - [Wind Quintet]

Samuel Barber [1910-1981]

Summer Music Op.31 [1956]

Slow and indolent – With motion

Always elegantly dressed and urbane in manner and speech, he seemed to belong to the world of Henry James and Edith Wharton. But not quite: his conversation was sprinkled with ribaldry, his graffiti humour, and wry stories always phrased in a lapidary style. Barber’s range of feeling and areas of knowledge were enormous, not only in music but in the field of general culture, particularly literature. Poetry was as necessary to his existence as oxygen.

His great strengths as a composer were melody, rich harmonic texture and a consummate mastery of polyphony. His language is that of the poet, swift changes of mood and a pervading melancholy clothed in a sumptuous, passionate sensuality that never lapses into cheap sentimentality. An almost infallible taste governs every note. After his two years in Europe in the mid-thirties, he rapidly developed a harmonic idiom which was highly individual and suited his bittersweet melodies and contrapuntal textures. 

Summer Music was commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Detroit in 1954 and was premiered two years later by principals of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. A languorous opening suggests a sweltering summer heat relieved fleetingly by swirling breezes in the flute, clarinet and bassoon. This yields to a singing oboe melody of seductive warmth and languor. Playful episodes accumulate in intensity and eventually dissolve into muted rapture that builds to a joyous climax before the opening daydream returns.

Francis Humphrys