Magazine article The New Yorker

Barber Shop

Magazine article The New Yorker

Barber Shop

Article excerpt

If any Samuel Barber work has inspired nearuniversal approval, it is the Sonata for Piano, composed for Vladimir Horowitz, who premiered it in 1949. One of the miracles of this piece, and of Barber's music generally, is how an unlikely amalgam of materials--Schoenbergian tone rows, Bach-like counterpoint, bravura piano writing out of Rachmaninoff, joyful riffs of Gershwin-style jazz--coheres into a convincing whole. Reverently European in influence, it is defiantly American in style. Horowitz's arch-Romantic recording set the standard, a tradition continued in a more patient, rounded manner by Diane Walsh, on a recent disk from the Bridge label. Marc-Andre Hamelin's new recording on Hyperion, however, is a dazzling alternative: others may stress the work's intense lyricism, but Hamelin emphasizes its jutting angles, propulsive rhythms, and striking architecture. It holds its own against Ives's "ultra-modern" "Concord" Sonata, in a provocative but inevitable pairing.

Bridge has performed another valuable service in releasing a disk that couples Leontyne Price's historic 1953 recital at the Library of Congress--which, with Barber at the piano, includes the world-premiere performance of the beloved "Hermit Songs"--with a 1938 radio broadcast of Barber accompanying himself at the keyboard in a selection of folk songs and German lieder. …

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