Adagio for Strings, Opus 11
Samuel Barber, a graduate of and later teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, was generally a conservative in regard to compositional styles of the 20th century. His passion was for the voice and his principal affinity was for vocal composition, which is apparent in the melodic lines of the Adagio for Strings. The elegiac work is the Molto adagio opening of the second movement of his String Quartet No. 1, written in 1936, and then arranged for full strings in 1937. By the end of World War II it was being performed everywhere, almost as a dirge for and tribute to the many young dead.
Barber’s gift for sweeping lyricism finds a graceful atmosphere through which a single meandering melody finds its way. With conjoining pitches of the scale, an accompaniment of chords, and a homogeneous tone quality, the melody is first heard in the violins. It then fades downward to the violas and cellos until each voice has had a share of the action. The reverie offers quiet spiritual reflection, with a searching quality as every upward movement is counteracted with a subsequent fall. In the center section, the double basses rest as the others create a shrill treble climax. When the basses return, the work reverses course and gently dies away.
~ Joy S. Perry
For information on how this piece changed the world visit the NPR link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6427815
Next week please visit our new "Grace Notes" page, an interactive multimedia page with information on all songs performed on each OSFL concert.
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