It must be great to go thorugh life with the aristocratic moniker of James Oliver Buswell IV. As a violinist, Buswell is more a man of the people than an aristocrat: he gives a modest, sweet-toned reading of the Barber Violin Concerto that doesn't show off its virtuosic technique. Marin Alsop forgoes rhythmic strength in favor of free-form songfulness, and the music can take it. The perpetual motion finale is excitingly fast, and Naxos provides exceptionally clear, natural sonics, among the best I've heard in this work.
The other works will be new even to listeners who follow Barber fairly closely. Souvenirs is a ripely nostalgic ballet suite set in a grand hotel--it also exists in a two-paino version, I think--with breezy dances from the turn of the century, such as a waltz, schottische, and two-step. Barber's melodies aren't first-rate, but this is gentle, easy listening.
The Serenade for Strings echos its famous predecessors by Dvorak and Tchaikovsky. Compared to them, this wispy, light-footed movement feels like tea-party music. But it's Barber's Op. 1 and is here basically to fill out our knowledge of his beginnings. His more impressive Op. 7, Music for a Scene from Shelley, is begins as gentle, moody shimmers but builds to a surprisingly strong climax that evokes mystery and perhaps tragic loss.
In all, these fillers pretty much amount to pstel water-color sketches. The Violin Concerto is the main attraction, and it's nicely done at bargain price.