Adagio For Strings (6:59)

Cover of The 50 Greatest Pieces of Classical Music

From The 50 Greatest Pieces of Classical Music and 115 other releases

“Adagio for Strings” was written by American composer Samuel Barber. It is Barber’s best-known composition although it was not one of his Pulitzer Prize winners. The Adagio is a re-arrangement of the slow second movement of Barber’s “String Quarter, Op. 11.”

Barber was only 26 when the Adagio was performed, in 1938, by Arturo Toscanini’s famed NBC Symphony Orchestra. At the end of the first rehearsal, Toscanini remarked, “Simple & beautiful!” This was especially amazing because he rarely conducted pieces by American composers. At first, Barber knew none of this and was angry with Toscanini who had returned the score to Barber without comment. Only later, did Barber realize this had occurred because Toscanini had already memorized the score!

In 1965, Barber rewrote the score for an 8-person choir as part of his religious work “Agnus Dei.”

The work has been part of many famous performances besides Toscanini’s:

1. It was played during the funerals of Princess Grace & Alfred Einstein.

2. It was played in Britain’s Royal Albert Hall during a 2001 tribute to the 9-11 victims.

3. It was played on national radio as part of the announcement of President Franklin Roosevelt’s death.

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