Samuel Barber (1910 - 1981)
Adagio for Strings, Op. 11
The American composer Samuel Barber had a remarkable gift for writing attractive, singable yet distinctive melodies. The adagio for strings is certainly his most famous work, but his short first symphony, and the fine violin concerto (played by the NPO last season) are also very attractive works. The adagio began life as the central movement of his string quartet Op.11, written in 1936. It was arranged two years later for string orchestra, and in this form has become an American cultural icon, played on occasions of national mourning such as Kennedy's assassination. Its sad and sinuous phrases gradually build up to a passionate high climax, before ending quietly.