Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Samuel Barber

Sure on this shining night is the third of four songs that make up Barber's Opus 13 collection (1937-1940). It is a relatively early work, though as most of his admirers are aware, Barber divulged a mastery of his craft even in his earliest compositions. Here he produces a song of about two minutes in duration and uses a text by poet James Agee.

The mood is dark, the music having a passionate post-Romantic cast, almost Rachmaninovian in its gloomy but lovely lyrical flow. The beautiful main theme is sung to the title words, at first bringing a hopeful feeling, but the trajectory of the music gradually works downward and turns pessimistic. Still, in its second subject it rises defiantly and passionately, but again loses energy and sinks lower. On its last appearance the main theme is slightly darker and resigned to the desolate mood expressed in the text: "Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wandering for alone...." The accompaniment on piano (or in the orchestral version) is lovely, often echoing the vocal line in sparing but deftly imagined writing. This is a beautiful song that will appeal especially to lovers of Romantic and American vocal music.