May 16, 2008

Barber's Adagio For Strings

I have two substandard recordings of Barber’s Adagio For Strings, one of the most poignant pieces of music ever written. One is a nuanced performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic led by Leonard Bernstein, but the recording is flawed by poor placement of the microphones. The piece is overwhelmed by brass and winds and barely audible in strings at pianissimo. It is on the Deutsche Grammophone label, one I mistakenly believed was for audiophiles. The other recording, a gift from someone online, is unaccredited; it is a better recording of a poorer performance that lacks emotion, the hallmark of the piece.

So I ask: does anyone know of a very good recording of a very good performance of Adagio For Strings?

Postscript: I am not asking about DJ Tiesto’s remix. I want the original orchestral rendition.


somewhere joe said...

Thomas Schippers / NY Philharmonic

Thomas Schippers Conducts Barber/Menotti/Berg/D'Indy

Amazon has it for download by itself or the whole album, if you can live with an MP3. Nice full rendition, well paced.

Birdie said...

Thank you, Joe! I'll check it out.

IAWrangler said...

Hi. You might already know that Barber's famous adagio originated as the second movement of his first string quartet. Barber also arranged the piece for eight-part choir. It's a lovely arrangement; listen:

Birdie said...

Iawrangler, I didn't know that it was part of a larger work at first, but I have been made aware. I'm listening to your suggested video as I write. It certainly has a different tone to it as a choral piece; but I like it. The transitions are purer than most string versions.

It makes sense that it was written for a quartet. As such it would be much easier to play. As an orchestral piece, it is notoriously difficult. I've noticed that in most recordings the violins make frequent transition/timing errors, resulting in a muddied sound. That's one reason I was asking for a good performance: not easy to find.

Thank you for the reference!