Barber: Adagio for Strings; Ives: Symphony No. 3, etc. (CD review)
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.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.