Cello Concerto (Barber)

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Samuel Barber's Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra in A minor,[citation needed] Op. 22, completed on 27 November 1945 (Heyman 1992, 252), was the second of his three concertos (the first being his Violin Concerto and the third his Piano Concerto). Barber was commissioned to write his cello concerto for Raya Garbousova, an expatriate Russian cellist, by Serge Koussevitzky on behalf of Garbusova and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Funds for the commission were supplied, however, by John Nicholas Brown, an amateur cellist and a trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Heyman 1992, 248). The score is dedicated to John and Anne Brown (Barber 1952, 1). Barber was still on active duty with the U. S. Army at the time he received the commission, and before beginning work asked Garbousova to play through her repertoire for him so that he could understand her particular performing style and the resources of the instrument (Heyman 1992, 249). Garbousova premiered it with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Symphony Hall, Boston, on 5 April 1946, followed by New York performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on 12 and 13 April (Heyman 1992, 252). The concerto won Barber the New York Music Critics' Circle Award in 1947 (Heyman 1992, 257).

The work has remained obscure and performances are scarce, largely because of its extreme technical demands, but also because the heavy editing of the solo part by Garbousova hinders individual interpretation (Davies 1999, 34).

The work has three movements:

  1. Allegro moderato
  2. Andante sostenuto
  3. Molto allegro e appassionato

The concerto is scored for solo cello and an orchestra consisting of 2 flutes, oboe, English horn, 2 clarinets (second doubling bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 3 trumpets, timpani, snare drum, and strings.


  • Barber, Samuel. 1952. Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra, Op. 22. G. Schirmer's Edition of Study Scores of Orchestral Works and Chamber Music No. 61. New York: G. Schirmer, Inc.
  • Davies, Daniel Edward. 1999. "An Analytical, Historical, and Pedagogical Overview of Samuel Barber's Cello Concerto, Dmitri Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1, and William Walton's Cello Concerto". DMA diss. Evanston: Northwestern University.
  • Heyman, Barbara B. 1992. Samuel Barber: The Composer and His Music. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-506650-0 (cloth); ISBN 978-0-19-509058-1 (pbk)

Further reading[edit]

  • Dale, S. S. 1974. "Contemporary Cello Concerti XV: Samuel Barber". The Strad 84 (January): 529–35.
  • Taubman, Howard. 1959. "Music: Cello Concerto". The New York Times (January 31): 12.
  • Tobias, Paul. 1996. "Much-Maligned Masterpiece". The Strad 107, no. 1272 (April): 388–92.
  • Tobias, Paul. 1995. "The Rocky Road of an American Orchestral Masterpiece". Journal of the Conductors' Guild 16, no. 2 (Summer–Fall): 91–95.