BARBER Samuel, Cello Sonata Op.6

Allegro ma non troppo 
Allegro appassionato 


Samuel Barber’s Cello Sonata is one of his first major works, composed as he was finishing his studies at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. The Sonata was started during an Italian holiday in the summer of 1932, while Barber was staying with fellow-composer Gian-Carlo Menotti near Lake Lugano. He returned to Curtis that Autumn and showed his unfinished Sonata to the cellist Orlando Cole (whose suggestions Barber gratefully accepted) and it was finished in December 1932. A month later, Barber and Cole gave a private performance in Philadelphia, and the public premiere took place on 5 March 1933, at a concert by the League of Composers in New York. 


Barber shows himself to be a thoroughly individual composer in this work: happy to draw on the influence of earlier works such as Brahms’s cello sonatas, and by the music of composers such as Debussy. In short, even at the early stage in his career, it was clear that Barber was not going to sound like his American contemporaries. Instead there is a sureness of touch – and great technical command – of a musician whose language was entirely his own: reinvigorating tonal harmony with a sensitivity and character that was to mark out the works that followed. Fastidious and self-critical, Barber was a lyrical composer, and much of the Cello Sonata has a passionate, song-like eloquence that is ideal for the instrument.  


© Nigel Simeone 2013


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