Barber’s “Piano Sonata” (1949) makes use of twelve-tone serialism but contains Barber’s signature lyricism. It is considered the most important composition of the second decade of Barber’s career and is marked by an intensity and a bigness of conception that stamp it as a mature work. It was composed on commission from the League of Composers and its first New York performance was on January 24, 1940 by Vladimir Horowitz.
The Richard Cumming “Twenty-Four Preludes for Piano” was written for, and premiered by John Browning on December 17, 1969. Mr. Cumming recalls, “Mr. Browning’s one request was “make them hard” and I have been led to believe that I have not totally failed him. I tried to explore a variety of pianistic techniques and musical styles ranging from the cafe to strict 12-tone and, to the best on my ability, express my own joy and respect for that lyric, noble and dynamic instrument I dearly love, the piano.”