Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cheesy Classical Music You Should Know: Barber's Adagio for Strings

Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings has been repeatedly popping into popular consciousness to signify tragic loss since its auspicious 1938 premiere on an NBC Symphony Orchestra broadcast with Arturo Toscanini (which you can hear courtesy of

Originally composed as part of Barber's second string quartet, the Adagio for Strings was heard on the radio when FDR died. Barber arranged it in 1967 for choir as an Agnus Dei.

Adagio for Strings is part of the soundtracks for 1980s classics The Elephant Man and Platoon. On September 15, 2001, Leonard Slatkin and the BBC Symphony Orchestra closed London's annual Proms concerts with the piece.

Barber's centenary is this March (the composer died in 1981), so now is a perfect time to get to know (again) his most famous music, a work that has become an almost universal musical symbol for catharsis in the face of loss.