The works of Samuel Barber (1910-1981) have been performed many times in the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress. Perhaps his most significant commission – premiered at the Library – was the song cycle “Hermit Songs,” op. 29. Barber wrote the songs over the course of many months after becoming inspired by medieval Irish poetry, which serve as their texts, and taking his first trip to Ireland in 1952.
The numerous notes and sketches associated with the composition of these songs are unusual for Barber, who usually wrote songs very quickly. The sketches can be examined online in the Library's Performing Arts Encyclopedia.
The Library is the preeminent repository for Barber’s manuscripts, including his most popular composition, "Adagio for Strings,” which he gave to the Library in 1943. The premiere was given by Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Orchestra, the recording of which was selected in 2005 for the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress.
Other selected manuscripts, audio recordings, and articles have been made available to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the American composer's birth.
Barber’s work has intersected with many of the important figures of 20th-century music, several of whom have collections within the Library. The Martha Graham collection holds important material related to Barber's dance pieces “Andromache's Lament” and “Cave of the Heart” (also known as “Medea”).
The Leonard Bernstein collection also contains correspondence (not digitized) exchanged between the two composers.