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Samuel Barber: Absolute Beauty

A Documentary by H. Paul Moon

Film Screening

Free (does not include museum admission). Advance reservations are strongly recommended.

image for 2017-03-23-film-barber

Event Details

Known for his mournful Adagio for Strings, composer Samuel Barber was never quite fashionable. Absolute Beauty is a probing exploration of his music and melancholia. Performance, oral history, musicology, and biography combine to explore the life and music of one of America’s greatest composers. Leaving the protective shelter of small-town childhood, Barber rose to fame with the Adagio. But his emotional honesty, and hidden private life, was never embraced in the 20th century. Yet his music, with its heartbreaking melancholy, survives despite and still.

This feature-length documentary project began at The Phillips Collection with a performance by Christopher Rex and Elizabeth Pridgen of Barber’s Cello Sonata. It features numerous local musicians and ensembles, and is dedicated to the memory of J. Reilly Lewis, including his last filmed interview and performances. For more information, visit:

DC-based filmmaker H. Paul Moon created Samuel Barber: Absolute Beauty while working on multiple projects for The Phillips Collection, including concert videos and two recent documentaries: Sitka ( about the restoration of the museum’s Steinway concert “D” grand piano featuring Olivier Cavé, and Quartet for the End of Time ( about Olivier Messiaen’s transcendent wartime composition, performed in the Music Room by The President’s Own US Marine Band Ensemble.  Paul’s body of work includes documentaries, dance films, and experimental cinema, regularly featured at film festivals worldwide. He has also worked as a small camera specialist for a Paramount feature film starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, and as cinematographer for director Josephine Decker’s acclaimed film in collective:unconscious.  He is currently finishing The West (

Film Trailer

Featured Artists

In order of appearance:
Thomas Hampson, baritone
Terry Teachout, author
21st Century Consort
William Sharp, baritone
Barbara Heyman, author
Christopher Rex, cello
Elizabeth Pridgen, piano
Jordan Kuspa, compose
Leonard Slatkin, conductor
Pierre Brévignon, author
Marin Alsop, conductor
John Corigliano, composer
Thomas Larson, author
J. Reilly Lewis, conductor
Cathedral Choral Society
Quatuor Rosamonde
Jenny Oaks Baker, violin
Alexandria Symphony Orchestra
Kim Allen Kluge, conductor
Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic
Ulysses S. James, conductor
Stephen Framil, cello
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
IBIS Chamber Music Society
Elizabeth Kluegel, soprano
Jean-Pierre Marty, piano
Michael Adcock, piano
James Tocco, piano
Rosa Lamoreaux, soprano
Andrew Simpson, piano
Philadelphia Wind Quintet
Marie Charpentier-Leroy, mezzo-soprano
Gisèle Becker, conductor
Cantate Chamber Singers
Washington Bach Consort
Calvin Bowman, composer
Melissa Fogarty, soprano
Marc Peloquin, piano