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Barber: Piano Concerto / Die Natali / Medea's Meditation
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Barber: Piano Concerto / Die Natali / Medea's Meditation

16 Sep 2002 | Format: MP3

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  • Original Release Date: 16 Sep 2002
  • Label: Naxos
  • Copyright: (C) 2002 Naxos
  • Total Length: 59:45
  • Genres:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 362,982 in MP3 Albums (See Top 100 in MP3 Albums)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By eleanormc on 14 Oct 2002
Format: Audio CD
Prutsman is a fine pianist and performs this work with finesse . His technique can meet all the challenges of the concerto and he is ably supported by the R S N O with Alsop in control.
The R S N O shows itself to be as good as many of the top orchestras and their response to the other pieces shows skill and a strong feeling for these works. Marin Alsop obviously has a great sense of what Barber wanted and she is a sure hand on the tiller . Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. R. Moorhead on 27 Dec 2011
Format: Audio CD
An exciting recording of a thoroughly 20th Century piano concerto. Kudos to naxos for releasing this great set of recordings from Marin Alsop and the RSNO. The two pieces themselves are essential listening for those interested in Samuel Barber. The Piano Concerto won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1962 while Medea's Dance of Vengeance is an orchestral reworking of his ballet suite from the ballet Medea and one of his most popular works. If you are looking for an introduction to Samuel Barber, buy either this or the disc containing the Cello Concerto (also available on Naxos) and you won't be sorry.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Two Barber Rarities 6 Dec 2002
By David A. Wend - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This disc is another installment in the Naxos Barber series, conducted by Marin Alsop. It has some interesting, little-heard music: Die Natalie, variations on Christmas carols, and the Commando March. Both show Barber's versatility and Die Natalie contains some deft counterpoint as Barber creates some remarkable music on those themes.
The Piano concerto is well played by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the soloist, Stephan Prutsman. Mr. Prutsman is a very gifted pianist and has an interesting, more aggressive approach to the concerto. This recording is comparable to those by John Browning, the dedicatee of the concerto, but this recording is not quite as lyrical as Browning and has a harder edge to the playing.
Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance, part of a longer ballet written for Martha Graham, is well played but cannot match the recording by Thomas Schippers for its intensity and atmosphere of fear. So although these are not among the best recording they are of interest and are appealing. The reasonable price for this disc and the overall quality recommend it highly.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Minor Barber, well served 13 Jan 2011
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
To be perfectly honest, Barber's piano concerto is by some distance the weakest of Samuel Barber's three major concertos (for violin, cello, and piano, respectively), but it is still a very fine work. Technically the solo part is one of the less challenging concertos in the repertoire; nevertheless, it still sounds (at least intermittently) dazzlingly brilliant. It also contains several very good ideas, and even though they sometimes overstay their welcome, Barber does in general deploy them skillfully and effectively. It receives a powerful and very compelling performance here by Stephen Prutsman - darker and more intense than some other versions, but the approach is well-judged and it is played with brilliance and a light touch where required. He is excellently accompanied by the superb contributions of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Alsop.

The performances are also generally good in the remaining work, though the musical rewards are a little variable. Die Natali (on Christmas themes) is dangerously empty of content - it is probably the weakest Barber work I have heard and I cannot imagine that it would appeal to anyone but the most hardcore Barber fan. The Meditation and Dance of Vengeance from the ballet Médea is a different matter; a grimly intense set it may not in the end be truly memorable, but it is certainly worth hearing, although the performance at hand is stronger on grimness than momentum (it could really need some more ferocity, although the orchestral playing is very good). The Commando March is a patriotic, lightweight work, but enjoyable enough and brilliantly dispatched. The sound is very good, and this is all in all a recommendable release - certainly a worthy addition to this important series.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Not my favorite of the set 24 Aug 2006
By Michael Suh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This CD pretty much exemplifies the rest of the Naxos set under Alsop -- decent, competent performances, even if they're not authoritative. Even with the Pulitzer prize, Barber's Piano Concerto is my least favorite of his major works -- his earlier works from the early 1940's (Violin Concerto, Cello Concerto, 2nd Symphony) I think are much more appealing. While the Concerto recording here isn't bad, it puts dramatic gestures over proper musical phrasing. I definitely prefer John Browning's recording with Slatkin over this one, even if Alsop presents a different approach; I just don't think it's well executed and it comes off sounding a little sloppy and unpolished.

Die Natalie is a really marginal work. The "Orientalism" that one of the other reviewer refers to is just a cheap and tacky sound effect meant to dress up a work that is overall pretty weak and uninteresting.

Medea's Dance of Vengeance comes up very flat here. I definitely agree with other reviewers that point out that Alsop and the Scottish Orchestra don't push the momentum through to the end. It brings just enough to the table for me to think how much better it would have been if they brought up the tempo a little in the last few pages of the score.

And maybe I'm just a cornball and a sucker for big melodies, but I really like the Commando March. "Don't-ask-don't-tell" policies aside, I think it's a fun work that posesses a unequivocal heroism that isn't common in Barber's output. It's an interesting (but brief) counterpoint to his more ambivalent and tragic wartime 2nd Symphony that was written at the same time.

I recommend the disc for the completists and the Commando March, but I would also be on the lookout for other versions of some of these works.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Naxos/Alsop continues its excellent Barber series 8 Nov 2002
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Marin Alsop and the Royal National Scottish Orchestra appear to be continuing their complete traversal of Samuel Barber's orchestral works with the fourth volume of the set. There have been some quibbles about tempi in the earlier volumes, particularly of the School for Scandal overture, but there is no such problem here.
The centerpiece of this CD is the Piano Concerto. This concerto was written for John Browning and he has played it literally hundreds of times over the past four decades; he has recorded it several times. I listened to his most recent recording with Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony in order to compare it with the present recording, and I have to say that Stephen Prutsman, the pianist on this disc, has nothing to apologize for. Whereas Browning's treatment seems a bit more settled, a bit more sedate, Prutsman's playing is more brilliant, somewhat more percussive, and equally satisfying. The piano is recorded rather more forward on this Naxos disc. I would have to give Browning the edge in the poetic second movement, but in the more vigorous sections Prutsman seems more energized.
The Die Natali is a Christmas piece, written at about the same time as the Piano Concerto. It treats such familiar Christmas carols as O come, O come, Emmanuel; Lo, how a rose e'er blooming; God rest ye merry, Gentlemen; We three kings; Good King Wenceslas. There is even a section where O come, O come, Emmanuel is played over an ostinato taken from Adeste fideles. The biggest climax is based on Joy to the world, and then Silent Night closes the piece quietly. Do not mistakenly believe that this is simply a medley of Christmas tunes--far from it; it is an extremely skillful piece that utilizes all manner of contrapuntal and harmonic devices to create a satisfying symphonic whole.
Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance had a classic recording by Leonard Bernstein and this performance does not compete very well with it, but it must be said that no one has ever come close to Bernstein's incandescent reading. This performance is certainly more than adequate.
The collection ends with Barber's delightful Commando March, originally written for military band in 1943, and later orchestrated; this is the version we hear. It is all one could ask of a stirring military march.
The performances here are quite good. The sound is also very clear and lifelike, although in the Concerto the piano, as mentioned, seems a bit spotlighted, which may not be all bad.
Recommended to those who do not have these particular pieces in their collections or who want several versions of, say, the Concerto or the Medea.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Marin Alsop's Barber cycle suddenly wakes up 30 Jun 2006
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The forthright attack of pianist Stephan Prutsman announces from the first bar that this installment in Marin Alsop's Bcomplete arber survey will be wide awake. Generally that hasn't held true elsewhere; Alsop's conducting tends to be soft-grained and not very rhythmic. Here the soloist inspires her to put some guts into Barber's orchestral part. The finale is suitably brash and propulsive. The second movement Canzone is a protracted song, almost romantic movie music, and Prutsman's touch is lovely. In general he doesn't try to sound commanding in the mode of John Browning, for whom the work was written, but chooses a lean, alert style that I like very much.

Die Natali is a 17 min. Christmas suite based on familiar carols like O Come, Emmanuel and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, gently but slyly arranged in ways that tickle the imagination. It lights up with belly-dancing Orientalism when we get to We Three Kings. Alsop's reading is suitably jolly, and the serene solo for French horn in Silent Night casts a spell.

Medea's Meditation and Dance of Death wasn't included in the suite from the ballet in Alsop's Vol. 2. It's the best part of the whole work, and Alsop does justice to its meditative side. One could ask for more mystery and ferocity in the vengeful parts, though. As another reviewer points out, Schippers' classic recording on Sony finds more depth in this music. The final piece here, entitled Commando March, sounds a bit like macho drag from this unmilitaristic gay composer--or is this a pardoy? I chuckled.

In sum, this CD would be a good place for any listener to start collecting Alsop's Barber since it contains such a variety of styles and shows off her condcuting at its best.
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