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Music of Samuel Barber / Slatkin, St. Louis


Release Date: 10/25/1990 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 49463   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

If the sudden influx of new recordings is anything to go by, Barber's music appears to be enjoying something of a resurgence. Never mind that the ubiquitous Adagio for strings seems more or less obligatory for every disc—I couldn't be happier. As MK put it in June when reviewing the Cello Concerto, ''few of his works prove disappointing when encountered and many of them are inspired'' quite so. This splendid collection contains three such gems in the shape of his orchestral Essays—a favoured form of his: concise enough to encourage structural discipline but free enough to give full rein to his considerable dramatic and melodic gifts. I don't believe they've ever appeared together before- I don't believe I've ever enjoyed them as much. Read more />
The First, Op. 12—a sorrowful lament relieved only briefly by one of those puckish Barber allegros—was written at the request of Toscanini and the NBC and first performed in the same concert as the Adagio, whose aching thematic thread belongs very much to the same stream of consciousness—a point made rather tellingly here by placing them alongside each other. Slatkin's Adagio is that rare thing: a performance that breathes and weaves almost imperceptively. And how exciting it is to hear the climax for once achieved on and not before, the intense and (unbearably) unresolved climactic chord itself.

The Second, perhaps the most familiar of the three Essays, gets a performance here to rival if not surpass, the muscular Schippers/NYPO iP account on CBS (nla). Indeed, in one or two respects it is markedly superior: the anxious fugal gigue which is articulated through the orchestra here with enormous panache, the heavy-hearted peroration, with Slatkin dramatically underlining the hairpin crescendos in his trumpets and trombones against defiant timpani and horns. Impressive too, are the St Louis strings, though their most grateful task comes with the Third and most profusely lyrical of the Essays. How strange that Barber thought it less lyrical than the others. Here I am put in mind of the florid orientalisms of Antony and Cleopatra. The themes flow generously, as one from the other: the first, from solo clarinet, and then—most eloquently—a still more beautiful idea for euphonium pointing to Barber's fondness for the wind band and leading us directly into the most luxuriant theme of all, in the strings of course. Slatkin's warm and flexible section enjoys that in all its embellishments.

There follows a number of exquisitely scored diversions (solo horn taking up from the euphonium in one) and a suitably heady resolution, the solo percussion of the opening bars (a kind of rhythmic leitmotiv: the string melody has the same rhythm) pointedly returning for an exciting pay-off. Which leaves just one further question: why do we never hear the piece? Perhaps Slatkin will put this inexplicable oversight to rights when he and the St Louis Symphony next visit London.

An outstanding disc, then, completed with the youthful School for Scandal Overture, in which Slatkin skilfully papers over one or two awkward transitional cracks, and that old Barber warhorse Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance, despatched here with all the slickness of a well-oiled encore and, notably, some handsomely opulent horn playing in the Meditation. EMI's recording perfectly complements Barber's immediate, fullblooded orchestrations. And more than that one cannot ask.

-- Edward Seckerson, Gramophone [10/1989]
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Works on This Recording

1.
The School for Scandal Overture, Op. 5 by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931-1933; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/03/1988 
Venue:  Powell Hall, St. Louis 
Length: 8 Minutes 19 Secs. 
2.
Essay for Orchestra no 1, Op. 12 by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/03/1988 
Venue:  Powell Hall, St. Louis 
Length: 9 Minutes 10 Secs. 
3.
Essay for Orchestra no 2, Op. 17 by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/03/1988 
Venue:  Powell Hall, St. Louis 
Length: 10 Minutes 49 Secs. 
4.
Essay for Orchestra no 3, Op. 47 by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1977-1978; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/03/1988 
Venue:  Powell Hall, St. Louis 
Length: 12 Minutes 2 Secs. 
5.
Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; Rome, Italy 
Date of Recording: 05/03/1988 
Venue:  Powell Hall, St. Louis 
Length: 8 Minutes 56 Secs. 
6.
Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance, Op. 23a by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/03/1988 
Venue:  Powell Hall, St. Louis 
Length: 12 Minutes 59 Secs. 

Sound Samples

The School for Scandal Overture Op. 5
Adagio for Strings Op. 11
Essay for Orchestra No. 1 Op. 12
Essay for Orchestra No. 2 Op. 17
Essay for Orchestra No. 3 Op. 47
Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance Op. 23a: Medea's Dance of Vengeance

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 True Genius September 17, 2013 By Dr. Mitchell Gurk (Spencer, MA) See All My Reviews "Medea appropriately creepy. Performers well attuned to the creators vision." Report Abuse
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