Chamber Music Series: Familial Music
- March 22, 2019
In 1953, the celebrated composer Samuel Barber accepted a commission from the Chamber Music Society of Detroit. He even agreed to forgo an up-front payment, instead endorsing a scheme by which the audience would donate at the premiere. The work was meant to be a septet for winds, strings, and piano, to be premiered by the principal players of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1954 in celebration of the society’s tenth anniversary; Barber did not manage to deliver the work until 1955, and it emerged not as a mixed septet but as a woodwind quintet. Despite those hiccups, Barber’s Summer Music was well received, and his sole work for winds has entered the standard repertoire of quintets around the world.
While preparing to compose Summer Music, Barber consulted with the esteemed New York Woodwind Quintet, and he tailored the work to the personalities and abilities of the five members. Soon after the premiere, Barber issued a revised version of Summer Music, which the New York Woodwind Quintet took on a three-month tour of the Americas.
Summer Music drew source material from an unpublished orchestral score from 1945 entitled Horizon. Barber recycled several themes into the quintet, including the opening melody introduced by the horn and bassoon at a “slow and indolent” tempo. The single-movement work returns periodically to this relaxed material, interspersed with more buoyant and agitated episodes. There is no programmatic thread, per se; as Barber quipped, “It’s supposed to be evocative of summer—summer meaning languid, not killing mosquitoes.”
Aaron Grad ©2012
Please note: Selections from Small Looking Up will not be performed at the Capri Theater on March 22.