Summer Music for Wind Quintet

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Summer Music for Wind Quintet (Op. 31) is a classical piece of music composed by Samuel Barber for a woodwind quintet.


Samuel Barber received an offer from the Chamber Music Society of Detroit to write a piece of music for string instruments and woodwind instruments in 1953.[1] Barber drew from some of his previous work, including the orchestral piece Horizon, as material for Summer Music. Originally meant to be a septet, Summer Music evolved into a quintet as Barber experimented with the research of John Barrows and his fellow woodwind players, all members of the New York Wind Quintet.[2]
On March 20, 1956, the Detroit Institute of Arts hosted the premiere of Summer Music, which was very successful.[2] Its success was partially attributable to the audience's investment in the piece. As part of his pay for composing the piece, Barber accepted donations from the audience instead of charging a lump sum. However, the piece was received with great enthusiasm regardless of its funding.[2] Despite the fact that Summer Music is one of Barber's only compositions for wind instruments, Barber left his legacy on woodwind music, as it has become a foundational piece for wind instrumentalists and appreciated by classical audiences everywhere.[3]


Summer Music showcases each instrument of the woodwind quintet for which it was composed, namely the flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, and the horn. It was written with the abilities of each instrument in mind and includes sections where each instrument is spotlighted. The piece consists of one movement. Evoking the aura of its namesake, Summer Music has been described as lackadaisical at parts and full of life at others.[3] The groups that have recorded Summer Music include Quintet of the Americas, the New York Wind Quintet, the Philharmonia Quintet, the Arioso Wind Quintet, the St. Louis Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin, the Michael Thompson Wind Quintet, the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet and Pentaèdre.


  1. ^ Hennessee, Don (1985). Samuel Barber: a Bio-bibliography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. 
  2. ^ a b c Heyman, Barbara (1994). Samuel Barber: The Composer and His Music. New York City, New York: Oxford University Press. 
  3. ^ a b JSTOR