Piano Sonata (Barber)
The Piano Sonata in E-flat minor, Op. 26 was written by Samuel Barber in 1949 for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the League of Composers. First performed by Vladimir Horowitz, the sonata has remained a popular concert staple ever since.
In 1950, the League of Composers, a society aimed at promoting new American works, met for the twenty-fifth anniversary of its inception. Samuel Barber set to work writing a piano sonata for the occasion, and requested Vladimir Horowitz to perform it. His demands were met, and the work was received with overwhelming critical acclaim.
The sonata is in four movements, and usually takes twenty minutes to perform:
Though extremely difficult to execute, the sonata is much more than a virtuosic showpiece. Barber integrated many 20th century musical ideas into the sonata, including extended chromaticism and tone rows.
The first movement begins with a raucous theme, presented in both clefs. Barber's unique use of tone row patterns is immediately prevalent, and it is through these patterns that the contrapuntal and thematic material is developed. The movement ends like it begins, rather abruptly.[original research?]
The second movement serves somewhat as a scherzo and is far more tonally centered than the first. The opening motif is repeated throughout the entire movement in a variety of patterns and keys, often shifting semi-tonally. Almost as effortlessly as it starts, the second movement drifts off into the third with a high arpeggio.[original research?]
Like the first movement, the thematic material in the third is presented through tone rows and chromatic figures. The third movement builds up tension through its use of highly dissonant chord progressions, and is much darker than the second.[original research?]
The final movement is an intense fugue, utilizing a jarring, simplistic theme throughout. Though technically a four-voice fugue, certain passages introduce as many as six voices. The fugue is very difficult to perform, and ends bombastically.[original research?]
- Vladimir Horowitz, released by RCA Victor[full citation needed]
- Terence Judd, released by Chandos[full citation needed]
- Marc-André Hamelin, released in August 2004 by Hyperion
- Van Cliburn, released by RCA[full citation needed]
- John Browning, released by Phoenix USA[full citation needed]
- Stephen Beus, released by Endeavour Classics[full citation needed]
- Olga Kern, released by Harmonia Mundi[full citation needed]
- Daniel Pollack, released by NAXOS Grammy Nomination[full citation needed]
- Joel Fan, released in April 2009 by Reference Recordings 
- Leon McCawley, released in January 2010 by Warner Classics
- Christopher Atzinger, released by MSR Classics
- Hans Tischler, "Barber's Piano Sonata Op. 26", Music & Letters 33, no. 4 (October 1952): 352–54. http://ml.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/pdf_extract/XXXIII/4/352
- Eric Brisson, "Barber - Sonata for Piano, Op. 26". http://www.pianopedia.com/w_1097_barber.aspx (4 March 2010)
- Ives & Barber: Piano Sonatas
- Joel Fan — West of The Sun: Music of the Americas"
- ClassicsToday.com Joel Fan Recording Review"
- Gramophone Magazine Joel Fan Recording Review
- Samuel Barber-Adagio (100th Anniversary)
- "MSR Classics :: CHRISTOPHER ATZINGER :: DEBUT :: MS1189". www.msrcd.com. Retrieved 2016-09-22.