It’s hard to imagine playing just one piece for the rest of my life! My teacher, Leon Fleisher (quoting from his mentor, Artur Schnabel), would speak of finding and working on music that could “never be played well enough,” meaning that to discover all the nuances and expression could take a lifetime. For me, Samuel Barber’s Piano Sonata in E-flat Minor, Op. 26, is the one I can’t live without. I love it deeply for the intense emotional places that it takes me. The work has an enormous range, combining the many diverse elements you would want in a single piano piece — grandeur, tragedy, humor, soulfulness, anger and ending with a hellacious Fuga. It’s also really fun to play, with plenty of challenging, massively polyphonic passages that were written for one of my pianistic heroes, Vladimir Horowitz.
Samuel Barber completed his Piano Sonata in 1949 with the piano virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz in mind. This final movement is the culmination of all of the emotions that have built up during the piece. It's a fugue, built on a jarring, syncopated theme. He utilizes massive, technically challenging polyphony for a ferocious ending to this masterpiece. One of my favorite piano works!
Samuel Barber is one of the most prominent American composers. His music is innovative, deeply personal, and very much American. Many of his other works are heard on television, game tracks and films, including Oliver Stone's Platoon.