Wednesday, 26 June 2013

17. Barber Adagio for Strings

Samuel Barber

This post, dedicated to the memory of Nelson Mandela, features the emotionally stirring Barber Adagio for Strings, in a performance that will leave you breathless. This piece has been used in the past to accompany moments of public mourning, including the funerals of Albert Einstein, John F Kennedy and Princess Grace of Monaco. It is therefore a fitting tribute to inspirational Nelson Mandela.

Samuel Barber (1910–1981) was a 20th century American composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music. The Adagio for Strings was originally conceived as the slow movement of Barber's String Quartet composed in 1936. Apparently, Barber immediately recognised something extraordinary in the music, describing it to a friend as "a knockout". Possibly this explains why Barber subsequently arranged the piece for string orchestra in the same year, and later a choral arrangement of Agnus Dei in 1967. The piece has been used in the following films: Platoon, Lorenzo's Oil and The Elephant Man.

Samuel Barber Adagio For Strings Thomas Schippers Columbia Symphony Orchestra

My favourite recording of the Barber Adagio for Strings is played by the Columbia Symphony Orchestra conducted by Thomas Schippers, under the direct supervision of Barber. This performance bleeds with emotion and searing intensity. The remastered sound of this 1960s recording is excellent. Links to the recording are at the end of this post and are a steal at just $0.99.

Below is a youTube video of Leonard Slatkin conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) in a performance of Barber's Adagio for Strings, in memory of the late James DePreist, a great American conductor and longtime friend of the DSO.

If you don't know the original version of this piece, then the below youTube performance will be of interest to you. Here the Cypress Quartet perform the Adagio for Strings in its original incarnation, as the middle movement of the String Quartet, Op. 11.
The below youTube video features the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the choral arrangement of the Adagio, Agnus Dei:

Links to the recording (track 2):

 Amazon ($0.99)

Thomas Schippers Conducts Barber, Menotti, Berg & D'Indy - New York Philharmonic USA Store
Thomas Schippers Conducts Barber, Menotti, Berg & D'Indy - New York Philharmonic UK Store
Thomas Schippers Conducts Barber, Menotti, Berg & D'Indy - New York Philharmonic Germany Store
Thomas Schippers Conducts Barber, Menotti, Berg & D'Indy - New York Philharmonic Netherlands Store


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