Look again at the beach scene with Joe and Sugar. It was written by two men who were once called Samuel Wilder and Itec Domnici, and acted by a man and a woman who were once called Bernie Schwartz and Norma Jeane Mortenson. Schwartz, who renamed himself Tony Curtis, is playing Joe, who is pretending to be Junior, using the mid-Atlantic vowels of Cary Grant, who was once called Archibald Leach. Mortenson, who renamed herself Marilyn Monroe, is playing Sugar Kowalczyk, who renamed herself Sugar Kane, and who is using lines which Joe used when he was pretending to be Josephine. Not even Twelfth Night or The Importance of Being Earnest had such elaborate fun with its characters’ identities. Names, genders, social standings ... they can all change in Some Like It Hot. It’s the American way.
His music caught the ear of Arturo Toscanini , who led the premieres of two works: the Essay for Orchestra (later retitled First Essay for Orchestra ) and the Adagio for Strings , one of the best-known works of the 20th century. The essay form — Barber's own creation, something of a musical "argument" in which one "thought" or melody is the seed from which an entire single movement springs — would be something the composer would return to at subsequent points in his life, composing a Second Essay in 1942 and a Third Essay in 1978. His beautifully lyric Violin Concerto (1940) is one of the finest string concertos of the 20th century, with a razzle-dazzle finale and a richly expressive opening movement. He also wrote a piano concerto (which won him a Pulitzer Prize) and a cello concerto. For Vladimir Horowitz , he composed the Piano Sonata in E-flat minor (1949), making it as challenging as possible. Barber's other works for the piano include the Nocturne (Homage to John Field) of 1959 and the beautiful Excursions, Op. 20 (1942-44).