Samuel Barber: Symphony n.1

Samuel Barber - Symphony n.1

Last updated Mar 3, 2020 | Published on Sep 17, 2016

Written by Gianmaria Griglio

Samuel Barber’s wrenching symphony n.1, here in the wonderful interpretations of the New York Philharmonic led by Bruno Walter in a 1945 recording (Barber’s 1944 revision).

 This one-movement symphony, composed in Rome during the winter of 1935-36 and dedicated to his long-time companion Gian Carlo Menotti, was given its premiere there on December 13, 1936, under Bernardino Molinari with the Philharmonic Augusteo Orchestra. Barber revised the score early in 1942, and the new version was introduced by Bruno Walter and the New York Philharmonic on April 16 of that year.

Hans Kindler conducted the National Symphony Orchestra’s first performance of this work, on November 7, 1945; Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducted the most recent ones in November of 1989.

In the program notes for the New York premiere Barber explained:

The form of my Symphony in One Movement is a synthetic treatment of the four-movement classical symphony.

It is based on three themes of the initial Allegro non troppo, which retain throughout the work their fundamental character.

The Allegro ma non troppo opens with the usual exposition of a main theme, a more lyrical second theme, and a closing theme.

After a brief development of the three themes, instead of the customary recapitulation, the first theme in diminution forms the basis of a scherzo section (vivace).

The second theme (oboe over muted strings) then appears in augmentation, in an extended Andante tranquillo.

An intense crescendo introduces the finale, which is a short passacaglia based on the first theme (introduced by violoncelli and contrabassi), over which, together with figures from other themes, the closing theme is woven, thus serving as a recapitulation for the entire symphony. (Heyman 1992, 140)

Notes and credits:

Cover image by Renato Mu

[1] Heyman, Barbara B. 1992. Samuel Barber: The Composer and His Music. New York: Oxford University Press.


Gianmaria Griglio

Welcome to my blog. I hope you’ll enjoy it: don’t forget to leave a comment, I always enjoy reading your opinions!

SMP Press

Find my music on SMP Press

Pass the baton – video course

Pass the baton


La notte di Yalda Camille Claudel Caravaggio

Conducting Pills

A FREE video series with an analysis of structure, phrasing, and, of course, conducting tips of repertoire works: from Mozart to Brahms, from Beethoven to Debussy. A new episode every week!

Read next…

Frederick Delius – La Calinda

Frederick Delius – La Calinda

The single most famous musical passage from Delius’ third opera “Koanga” contains the melody known as La Calinda, which is the only part of the score that has remained famous in the concert hall.

Henri Duparc – Lénore

Henri Duparc – Lénore

Due to mental illness, Duparc destroyed most of his music: Lénore, one of the few left, is a symphonic poem based on one of the most popular ballads in German literature.

Hans von Bülow – Nirvana

Hans von Bülow – Nirvana

Legendary conductor Hans von Bülow, considered by Wagner the only one who could conduct his operas, was also a composer.

“Nirvana” is a symphonic poem and one of the few works of his that survived.

Submit a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This