Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Barber piece you've undoubtedly heard

Today's entry is the first American mentioned on the blog. Samuel Barber was a big deal in the middle of the 20th century, although he was interesting in that, unlike many composers of his era, he was never really directly involved in the fights over conflicting schools of writing. His music was melodic, so he was somewhaat aloof from atonal composers, but I have yet to find him making any kind of strong public stand that the only acceptable music is that with tonality, and he was certainly not afraid of dissonances. He wrote a lot of cool stuff though, like Prayers of Kierkegaard, and Medea. However, his most lasting achievement is his Adagio for strings, which was originally written for a quartet but which he rewrote for an orchestra. He even went so far as to produce a different version of it as an Agnus Dei for chorus, which I will also be posting here. It is a very slow work, as its name would imply, and it has a lot of dolorous beauty. It has been used in countless other media, notably as a recurring theme in the film Platoon. The harmonies used are pretty awe inspiring, and I am actually a big fan of his Agnus Dei version as well, because I think it uses the voices to very good effect in the right space. I also have been partial to it because my first year at the Walden School, which is a really awesome composition camp in New England, the older chorus performed the work in our season finale concert, so I got lots of exposure to it and have very fond memories of it. I am including video of both the strings version, performed by Leonard Slatkin, and the choral version, by the chorus of Trinity college in Cambridge, if you want to contrast the two.

No comments:

Post a Comment