Minus the Adagio
Barber and some orchestral music,
with BASIL RAMSEY
The slow movement of a string quartet unexpectedly gained the musical
world's esteem, probably to Samuel Barber's surprise when it happened. Maybe
he latterly felt it an overindulgence and wished it otherwise. His radiant
Violin Concerto of 1940 has not gained the same exposure, although in such
a virtuosic performance as from Barber's fellow American, James Boswell,
one could wish it more [listen -- track 3, 0:00-0:57].
By no means a modernist, Barber used a language generous in harmonic
and textural colour. There are times when the resulting mixture seems a
little unfocussed, yet only blips on a pleasant landscape. The concerto
is mostly lightweight with tuttis the more dramatic when they appear.
The effervescence of the final moto perpetuo neatly balances the
foregoing movements' comfortable demeanour and pace.
Other works selected include opus 1, a Serenade for strings, which for
all its pleasantries has no cohesive voice, and finally a much tauter piece
in Music for a Scene from Shelley. Yes, it could pass for film music
but plays out its dramatic role well [listen -- track
A ballet suite of nine pieces entitled Souvenirs throws no surprises
in its popular dance forms and neat, comfortable music. The Violin Concerto
is the work here which really displays Barber's strengths. As a CD valuation
of Barber -- other than the Adagio for strings -- this is a worthwhile project,
proving his compositional gifts, particularly in the concerto.
The Royal Scottish National assists the music with clear-cut performances
under the direction of Marin Alsop.
Copyright © 21 November 2001
Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK
CD INFORMATION - NAXOS 8.559044
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