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Unsurpassed Adagio for Strings
on 22 February 2010
Bernstein's very very broadly paced rendition of Barber's Adagio is still unsurpassed for its almost painful emotional intensity and sublime beauty. When Bernstein takes a risk of extremely slow tempo, the music usually falls apart (the prime example; Elgar's Enigma Variation and Mahler's 2n & 8th), but with 'Adagio', it works! The way strings gradually build up the intensity and gather momentum is simply astounding and the long pause which follows the climax is awe-inspiring.
Rhapsody in Blue, with Bernstein at the piano, is also very impressive, with dazzling piano solo and powerfully expressive orchestra. What a superb pianist Bernstein was! He could have made a career as a concert pianist.