Work: Essay for Orchestra no 1, Op. 12
About This Work
Samuel Barber’s Essay for Orchestra, later retiled “Essay No. 1” when the second Essay appeared, was premiered in 1938 under the baton of Arturo Toscanini, on the same concert that premiered Barber’s beautiful Adagio for Strings. The first Essay, his
Opus 12, and about 8 minutes long, resembles the first movement of a symphony though generally freer in form. The music is remarkably assured and mature in expression for such a young composer. Although earlier Toscanini had championed music by Debussy, Elgar and Respighi which was considered very modern when new, by 1938 it was rare for Toscanini to lead the NBC orchestra in works by a new composer let alone an American.
Today, the Essay for Orchestra No. 1 as well as Nos. 2 and 3 are occasionally heard on radio and in concert and sometimes played by youth and college orchestras. These are appealing, neo-romantic 20th century scores that hold up well when rubbing shoulders with European repertoire on concert programs.
- Greg La Traille
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