Early in her career, Leontyne Price formed an artistic liaison with Samuel Barber that resulted in his composing the female lead in Antony and Cleopatra for her. The disastrous premiere of that opera prevented Price from m... more »aking a complete recording--a tragic loss in my opinion. She did record excerpts, however, and we at least have this disc to document these and the many other Barber works that she performed with incomparable artistry. Opera singing being what it is, Price didn't often have the chance to sing in English, so these performances are not only historically important, they are uniquely communicative as well. --David Hurwitz« less
Early in her career, Leontyne Price formed an artistic liaison with Samuel Barber that resulted in his composing the female lead in Antony and Cleopatra for her. The disastrous premiere of that opera prevented Price from making a complete recording--a tragic loss in my opinion. She did record excerpts, however, and we at least have this disc to document these and the many other Barber works that she performed with incomparable artistry. Opera singing being what it is, Price didn't often have the chance to sing in English, so these performances are not only historically important, they are uniquely communicative as well. --David Hurwitz
"Making a convincing recording of Barber's Knoxville is much more difficult than, as many late 20th-century vocalists seem to believe, simply exploiting the beauty of Barber's music. We all know that Barber had this gift for the melodic, a fusion of Romanticism and Americana that succeeds on its own terms. Knoxville: Summer of 1915 is special in Barber's output, though, for there is a sense of the human experience he captures in his setting that is so rare that it is called genius when recognized. Mozart had this gift in his late operas, as did Verdi. For Barber, it may be only this one piece that reveals in such shattering terms all the rich complexity and tragedy of the American experience. Leontyne Price understands this experience and infuses her every note and word with it, here sounding childish and innocent, here sounding mournful in a way that rings true without melodrama. The ways in which Price accomplishes this feat have much to do both with the clarity of her diction and with the nature of the tone she employs--definitely an American over a European sound. Schippers and the New Philharmonia Orchestra provide an adequate ensemble, though by no means one matched to Price's ability to interpret the work. One can only imagine a coupling of Price and Leonard Bernstein, even with the NYP; such a recording would be the stuff of legend.As it stands, we have this gorgeous document of the Barber/Price collaboration and as stunning an interpretation on the part of Price as we do on the part of Barber for James Agee's profoundly moving text. Though the Hermit Songs are delightful and occasionally wonderful listening and the Antony and Cleopatra good to have, the great worth of the CD rides on this recording of Knoxville. I believe it to be the best we have."
Price sings songs and arias written for her!!!
Paul E. Logan | Washington, D. C., District of Columbia USA | 12/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This CD on which Leontyne Price memorializes many of the songs and arias composed by Sam Barber with her in mind should be in every collection of those who appreciate Barber's vocal music and the magnificent voice of one of the world's greatest singers of the 20th century. The collaboration of Barber and Price on the "Hermit Songs" and others reveals the composer's affection for the singer and the singer's understanding of the dramatic intent of the word and music. Alone, Price's interpretation of "Knoxville: Summer of 1915" is worth the price of the CD; it is singularly exquisite and cannot be matched! Price brings unmatched beauty, power, and understanding to the arias from "Anthony and Cleopatra" -- an opera composed with her voice in mind. It is indeed sad that Price never recorded "Vanessa," nor the song cycle "Despite and Still," nor the hauntingly beautiful "Sure on this Shining Night." You will not be disappointed if you buy this CD."
An American Voice of the Century
G. Ferguson | Portland, OR | 10/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While there is no question that Leontyne's opulent voice - here young and lustrous in the "Hermit Songs" recital (1953!) would have been a magnet for any composer, her affinity for Barber is clear, and his for her. The studio recording of the "Hermit Songs" has a better acoustic, but this one is just as thrilling in interpretation, and a bit less studied - and it has the two James Joyce settings, as well. The "Knoxville" is beautifully judged - soft and swinging to start, then opening up into the drama and poetry of the middle and late sections. The Eleanor Steber original commission will always set the standard, but Price expands it that much farther, with longer phrases, and an ineffable langour that both she and Steber identified as the "Southern" stamp on this music. It's universal, as far as I am concerned, but it exalts and breaks the heart at the same time. Agee and Barber drink from the same fountain here. I have never heard the entire "Anthony & Cleopatra", again written for Price, so I can't judge the work as a whole, just these two numbers. I have a special affection for the first scene, however - "Give Me Some Music" shows Price, in her absolute vocal prime, complete mistress of color and mood, and the motive, "My man of men" reappears in her final, regal, death scene. When she sings "O happy horse/ who bears the weight of Antony!" - I swear, my hair curls, no matter how many times I hear it. In short, gotta have it. "
An Essential Barber Disc
D. A Wend | Buffalo Grove, IL USA | 03/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a fabulous collection of music by Samuel Barber. Leontyne Price is at her absolute best in the songs. The entire Hermit Songs are here with four others. These recordings are of particular interest since Ms. Price performs with Samuel Barber at the piano. It is interesting to compare these recordings to the latter ones sung by Cheyrl Studer with John Browning at the piano for tempo changes. The recording of Knoxville: Summer of 1915 is arguable the best of those available. Ms. Price sings with great sensitivity and Thomas Schippers and the New Philharmonia provide excellent support. Ms. Price said that Knoxville reminded her of her own childhood, and her commitment to the music comes through. I have the recording of Knoxville sung by Eleanor Steber, who commissioned this work, but I have always regarded the Price recording as the one to have.The two excerpts from Antony and Cleopatra are of great interest since Ms. Price sang the role of Cleopatra at the premiere in 1966. Her performance here, also conducted by Schippers, is wonderful. The transfer to CD of these recordings is excellent. Perhaps the only down side is that the Hermit Songs were performed before an audience so there is applause between each song. After a while, this becomes monotonous. This disc is a must for anyone interested in Barber's music, and in particular for Knoxville."
All of Leontyne Price's Samuel Barber recording on one CD
cruisewhiz | Hawaii | 12/19/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Let me add to what was already mentioned regarding this CD release. Miss Price recorded Barber's The Hermit Songs after she premiered them in New York in the early 50's. The original LP which was released on Columbia Records was part of a series of new music. The record was deleated many years before Price became the opera superstar and her RCA Red Seal recordings became chart toppers. Years later, CBS released a CD of The Hermit songs and then RCA released them along with an album she did of arias from Anthony and Cleopatra and Knoxville Summer. This is a great opportunity to experience America's best. Craig Satterfield"