Barber: Adagio for Strings; Ives: Symphony No. 3, etc. (CD review)

Neville Marriner, The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Decca Originals 475 8237.

It's surprising, isn't it, how sometimes the simplist tune can become a hit, then a classic? Take Samuel Barber's little Adagio for Strings, for instance. It started life as the slow movement of his String Quintet, and in the late 1930s he arranged it for string orchestra. It became an instant success, and it has been popular ever since; yet it is really nothing more than a single brief passage repeated several times in several different ways.

The Adagio has never sounded more beautiful than under the direction of Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, back in the days (1976) when they were still hyphenating their name and doing their recordings for Argo. This Decca Originals brings together the Academy's acclaimed album of short, twentieth-century American works, which also includes Charles Ives's Third Symphony, Aaron Copland's Quiet City, Henry Cowell's Hymn and Fuguing tune No. 10, and Paul Creston's A Rumour. Marriner and the Academy play them straightforwardly, incisively, without a hint of sentimentality or undue exaggeration.

The Decca engineers remastered the collection in 96kHz/24-bit sound, which brings out all the detail and warmth of the music and the music making. There is a very slight edge to the upper midrange, common to many Decca recordings of the day, but it is quite faint and should not present an issue for most listeners.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa