Barber's Adagio Import
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Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings is a powerful piece, packed with emotional intensity yet also extraordinarily listenable--and popular. Here, Barber's short masterwork of simplicity and resonance gets eight treatments, from those he approved of (Charles Munch and the strings of the Boston Symphony; the Tokyo String Quartet; organist David Pizarro; and the Smithsonian Chamber Players) to new interpretations that don't quite match with the older renditions.
James Galway's new flute-and-synthesizer reading is a bit anemic, though thankfully not showy, and the Canadian Brass's arrangement is likewise tempered and calm, even if not very close to having significant bite. Richard Stoltzman and the Kalman Clarinet Choir probably do the best job of taking Barber to new places; the woody tones mesh almost polyphonically. Also included is the Choir of Trinity College's reading of Agnus Dei, Barber's choral setting of the Adagio, a distillation that might well be the high point of the CD. For the most stunning rendition of the Adagio, however, listeners should really hear the Thomas Schippers version. --Andrew Bartlett
Top Customer Reviews
Well, the process is actually quite instructive, especially the contrasts between all brass / all woodwind / orchestral / vocal settings.
The low point of the CD, James Galway's rendition with what sounds like a rabid band of stylophone players is, well, the low point. Dear oh dear James...
However that failing is more than compensated by the choral rendition of The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge. It's by far the longest version (at 9:27) but is unbelieveably beautiful with a soaring soprano that effortlessy scales the heights of that top B. Spine tingling. Play it on a decent set up, with the volume cranked up and you'll have no diffculty imagining yourself in Trinity College Chapel.
Seriously, it's worth it just for this one track.
It has been a part of many film soundtracks, like "Platoon" and "The Elephant Man", and been played at funerals of historic figures like John F. Kennedy.
The first interpretation is the one we are most familiar with, the traditional string arrangement, played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Munch, who was musical director of the BSO from 1949-1962.
Next is Irish flutist James Galway, backed by Hiro Fujikake on synthesizers. Sir James has attained international fame as a classical virtuoso, and also for his "crossover" innovations, and this performance could be said to be a bit of both worlds.
The Canadian Brass is a quintet of 2 trumpets, a French horn, a trombone and a tuba, and this a great rendition, with a sparse, simplicity to it.
The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, is a mixed choir of approximately 30 people, and they have added the Agnus Dei words to the piece; it is incredibly serene and lovely.
Richard Stoltzman and the Clarinet Choir give the most unique version. Along with virtuoso Stoltzman, there are 3 additional clarinets, an alto clarinet, a bass clarinet, and a contrabass clarinet. The effect is marvelous, with a very contemporary sound.
The Tokyo String Quartet has received world acclaim since it was founded in 1974, and this a soulful, exquisite interpretation, and one of my two favorites.Read more ›
The most well-known version is that for string orchestra, which receives a fine performance by the Boston Symphony. I also very much liked the version for organ (excellently recorded, with very deep bass!) but my favourite, like Paul Barrett below, is the choral version (often known as the Agnus Dei) sung by the Choir of Trinity College. I could just about have coped with James Galway's breathy flute but when the synthesiser enters, it's like something out of an early Frankenstein film. Still you can programme that track out of the C.D.
I would have given the disc 5 stars, but RCA/BMG have badly presented this disc. There are absolutely no sleeve notes,just a list of tracks. This Adagio is from Samuel Barber's String Quartet, composed in 1936. The great conductor Toscanini asked Barber for a piece of music and Barber himself arranged the Adagio for full string orchestra, adding depth and richness to the work. It has since become enormously popular and is frequently played when solemn music is called for.
Does any of this matter? Well I think it does, and BMG could at least have forked out to pay for a brief sleeve note. It would also be worthwhile to read something about the arrangements and the performers. But no, not a sausage from the record company. So only four stars.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Original ( track one ) was brilliant but I didn't know all the other versions were on cd & very disappointedPublished 18 months ago by John harding
Exactly what I wanted and gives a great selection of different renditions of Barber's Adagio. Very pleased.Published 19 months ago by THE ABBOT