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Curtis Celebrates the 100th Birthday of Samuel Barber ('34)

Centenary of Famed Curtis Graduate Commemorated with New Production of Antony and Cleopatra by Curtis Opera Theatre and Performances by Curtis Symphony Orchestra, Curtis On Tour, Curtis 20/21, and Curtis Alumni

The Curtis Institute of Music celebrates the hundredth birthday of composer Samuel Barber ('34), one of the school's most illustrious alumni, with performances in his honor now through April. Curtis students, faculty, and alumni perform well-loved repertoire and rarely heard works, from Barber's String Quartet--the slow movement of which is the source of his popular Adagio for Strings--to his 1966 opera Antony and Cleopatra.

One of the most important American composers of the last century, Samuel Barber (1910-81) made distinguished contributions to the orchestral, choral, operatic, piano, and chamber music repertories. Among the first students to enter the Curtis Institute of Music when it opened in 1924, he studied composition with Rosario Scalero, piano with Isabelle Vengerova, and voice. It was while studying at Curtis that he met his future collaborator and life-partner, opera composer and librettist Gian Carlo Menotti ('33). After graduating from Curtis in 1934, Barber soon established himself within America's classical community, winning the favor of such important artists as Koussevitzky and Horowitz.

Curtis On Tour, which brings the extraordinary artistry of the Curtis Institute of Music to audiences nationwide and abroad, marks the centenary with performances of Barber's String Quartet No. 1, Op. 11. Violinist Ida Kavafian and cellist Peter Wiley ('74), both Curtis faculty members, appear with Curtis students on the 2009-10 tour, which kicks off February 26 with a performance in Field Concert Hall.

The Curtis On Tour program also features Dvořák's Piano Quintet No. 2 and world premieres of miniatures commissioned for the tour from Curtis composition students Chris Rogerson and Daniel Shapiro. Stops on the tour throughout February and March include New York City; Detroit; Seattle; Davis, Calif.; Kennett Square, Pa.; Rockport and Orono, Maine; and Highland Park, Ill.

On March 9, Barber's hundredth birthday, the school's contemporary music ensemble Curtis 20/21 presents a celebratory program in Field Concert Hall. The program includes Summer Music, Dover Beach, selections from Curtis's manuscript collection, and Barber-inspired works by composition student Chris Rogerson and 1996 graduate Jonathan Holland. The same program will be performed two days earlier in Barber's hometown, West Chester, Pa., and on March 15 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

On March 16, pianist Leon McCawley gives a guest recital in Field Concert Hall celebrating two milestone anniversaries: Samuel Barber's centenary and Chopin's bicentenary. Mr. McCawley, whose extensive discography includes Barber's complete works for piano on the EMI/Virgin Classics label, is a 1995 Curtis graduate. His program traces Chopin's distinct influence on Barber's piano writing, while highlighting both composers' keen interest in the musical styles and idioms of their homelands and their respect for classical forms and structures.

The same week, the Curtis Opera Theatre performs Barber's Antony and Cleopatra in the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center. Presented March 17, 19, and 21 in association with Kimmel Center Presents and the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the fully staged production is sung in the original English and directed by Chas Rader-Shieber. George Manahan conducts the Curtis Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Manahan led the New York City Opera production of Antony and Cleopatra in January 2009. The New York Times praised the "fervent and sensitive performance that Mr. Manahan presided over" and the score's "restless chromatic harmony, arching melodic outpourings, lush orchestration, percussive flourishes to evoke the conquering Romans, and reedy, harmonically astringent writing to conjure up Egyptian exotica."

Wrapping up the school year and the centenary celebrations, the Curtis Symphony Orchestra performs Barber's Symphony No. 1 under conductor Giancarlo Guerrero on April 24 at Verizon Hall. Called "an orchestra that any city would be lucky to have as its professional ensemble" (Philadelphia Inquirer) and praised for its "professional level of sophistication" (New York Times), the Curtis Symphony Orchestra will also perform Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death, featuring soloist John Relyea ('96); Ligeti's Atmosphères; and Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra on the April program.

The Barber celebration began on January 17, when the Dolce Suono Ensemble visited the school's Field Concert Hall for "Samuel Barber at 100--the Composer and His World." The ensemble of Curtis alumni and others performed music by Barber and his contemporaries and successors, all of whom have connections to Curtis, from emeritus faculty member Ned Rorem ('44) to current faculty members Jennifer Higdon ('88) and David Ludwig ('01).

The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists on the highest professional level. One of the world's leading conservatories, Curtis is highly selective and provides full-tuition scholarships to all of its 160 students. In this intimate environment, students receive personalized attention from a celebrated faculty. A busy schedule of performances is at the heart of Curtis's distinctive "learn by doing" approach. This philosophy has produced an impressive number of notable artists since the school's founding in 1924, from such legends as Samuel Barber and Leonard Bernstein to current stars Juan Diego Flórez, Alan Gilbert, Hilary Hahn, Jennifer Higdon, Leila Josefowicz, Lang Lang, and Time for Three.


Samuel Barber Centenary
2009-10 Season

Curtis On Tour
Friday, February 26 at 8 p.m.

Field Concert Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, 1726 Locust Street, Philadelphia

Ida Kavafian and Benjamin Beilman, violins
Hyo Bi Sim, viola
Peter Wiley, cello ('74)
Yekwon Sunwoo, piano 

BARBER String Quartet, Op. 11
ROGERSON Lullaby: no bad dreams (world premiere)
SHAPIRO Sonata for Viola and Piano (world premiere)
DVOŘÁK Piano Quintet No. 2


Free; no tickets required.


Tour performances:
February 28
: The Music Box, Detroit, Mich.
Presented by the Detroit Symphony

March 2: The Henry Chapel, The Highlands, Seattle
Presented by the Henry Chapel

March 6 and 7: Mondavi Center, Davis, Calif.
Presented by the Mondavi Center for the Arts, University of California, Davis

March 10: Allen Room in Frederick P. Rose Hall
Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York City

March 13: Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pa.
Presented by Longwood Gardens

March 19: Minsky Recital Hall, Orono, Me.
Presented by Collins Center for the Arts, University of Maine

March 20: Rockport Opera House, Rockport, Me.
Presented by Bay Chamber Concerts

March 26: Bennett Gordon Hall, Highland Park, Ill.
Presented by the Ravinia Festival



Curtis 20/21: Samuel Barber Centenary Celebration
Tuesday, March 9 at 8 p.m.

Field Concert Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, 1726 Locust Street, Philadelphia

HOLLAND Sonata Variation
ROGERSON Lullaby: no bad dreams
Allegro Agitato from Sonata for Violin and Piano
  Dover Beach
  Hermit Songs
  Summer Music
  Sonata in E-flat minor

Free; no tickets required.


Additional performances:
Sunday, March 7 at 3 p.m.

First Presbyterian Church, 130 West Miner Street, West Chester, Pa.
Free admission; donations accepted to benefit First Presbyterian Church.
Information: (610) 696-0554 or

Monday, March 15 at 12 p.m.
Library of Congress Coolidge Auditorium, Washington, D.C.
Free admission, tickets not required.



Guest Recital: Leon McCawley, piano ('95)
Tuesday, March 16 at 8 p.m.

Field Concert Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, 1726 Locust Street, Philadelphia

CHOPIN Four Mazurkas, Op. 6
  Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35
  Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 1
BARBER Excursions
  Nocturne: Homage to John Field
  Sonata in E-flat minor

Free; no tickets required.



Kimmel Center Presents in association with the Opera Company of Philadelphia
Curtis Opera Theatre: Antony and Cleopatra
Wednesday, March 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 19 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 21 at 2:30 p.m.

Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce Streets, Philadelphia

George Manahan, conductor
Chas Rader-Shieber, stage director
David Zinn, scenic designer
Jacob A. Climer, costume designer
Lenore Doxsee, lighting designer
Jon Carter, hair and makeup designer

Fully staged production with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, sung in the original English.

Tickets: $15, $40, $65, $95, $130; available at the Kimmel Center Box Office and from Ticket Philadelphia at (215) 893-1999 or

Funded in part by:
The Pew Center for the Arts & Heritage, through the Philadelphia Music Project
The William Penn Foundation



Curtis Symphony Orchestra
The Jack Wolgin Orchestral Concerts
Saturday, April 24 at 8 p.m.

Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce Streets, Philadelphia

Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor
John Relyea, bass-baritone ('96)

BARBER Symphony No. 1
MUSSORGSKY Songs and Dances of Death
LIGETI Atmosphères
R. STRAUSS Also sprach Zarathustra

Tickets: $5, $12, $15, $25, $36; available at the Kimmel Center Box Office and from Ticket Philadelphia at (215) 893-1999 or

Presented by


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