Acrylic on Canvas - 16" x 20"
For Adagio for Strings and Orchestra Op.11 By Samuel Barber
Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings and Orchestra Op.11
Created for the Musical Work Adagio for Strings and Orchestra, Op. 11 By Samuel Barber
It was said to me, “Barber’s music is so personal, that upon hearing it, it felt as if Barber had taken something of my very own without asking for permission.”
Did you know? … Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Orchestra, Op.11 is known as the “Unofficial American Anthem of Mourning,” featured at solemn occasions- played after the deaths of Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy, Princess Grace, Princess Diana and countless others. It is easily recognizable, a beloved composition and featured as Music for Film in Platoon, the Elephant Man, El Norte, and Lorenzo’s Oil.
Samuel Barber, an avid reader of symbolic literature, composed this work in a sound shape after reading a description of a river, described in a passage from Virgil’s Georgics, “how a rivulet slowly becomes a large river.” Barber created a single widening sound shape to build, climb louder and then louder to an overwhelming climax, before it descends to a quiet resolve. Barber’s work is described by critics as one of the most highly respected and known compositions, representing a “Masterpiece of Sound” Genius in form, it is a perfect “Arch of Musical Sound.”
Bedrich Smetana’s Moldau, (Real Player heard on the Home Page) is also a tone poem of a river’s symbolic journey.
Czechoslovakia, Moldau River, (Vlata) is composed with sounds different from Barber’s. Smetana ’s trickling rivulet of light flutes repeated in harmonic scale give way to lush orchestra as widths of sound increase, the Moldau winds through mountains and forests of Smetana’s homeland and mine also, Czechoslovakia. In symbolic and joyful triumph, the river passes villages as scenes of the countryside bring folk melodies to life. Ma Vlast (My Country), Moldau is a work of joy-quite different from Samuel Barber’s.
Wendy Carlos’ EDEN, featured as the painting “REALEASED” also brings similar structure but with electronic instruments giving an entirely different picture than Barber or Smetana. EDEN starts out quietly, then travels to a final crescendo, a technique of popular use.
Born March 9, 1910-1981, in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Barber received the American Prix de Rome, two Pulitzers, election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Barber was commissioned to open the New York Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in 1966 with Shakespeare’s Play put to Opera in “Antony and Cleopatra” which I attended.
Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville, Summer of 1915,” composed for the “Prologue”, of James Agee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “A Death in the Family,” again uses tone poem techniques …“a street car raising its iron moan… stopping…starting…steering to us, rising and raising again, its iron increasing moan…” effectively bringing musical scenics to life with instrumentation.
Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings and Orchestra Op.11 is popularly reproduced and can be ordered at this website for use as cards in Offerings of Solemnity, Remembrance, Religious and Inspirational.