Day 2 Adagio For Strings – Samuel Barber

Adagio For Strings
Samuel Barber


After the most popular wedding music; it only felt fair to use one of the most popular funereal pieces next. You can’t complain I lack symmetry!

Beyond my need to bookend, I felt that this was an important inclusion as it rather dramatically opens up the possibilities for inclusion in this challenge. It’s far too easy to only think of classical music as being old and European. Oh yes, the old thinking cap was ON today!


This contemporary piece was composed in 1936 by the American musician Samuel Barber and brought to the public two years later by Arturo Toscanini – a phenomenal musician and conductor. This piece – as recorded in 1938 – was selected for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry at the US Library of Congress in 2005. 

A far more dramatic and atmospheric choice – I do prefer the moody air far more that I appreciated the plinky-plonky cheerfulness of yesterday’s composition (Day 1).

This piece is drenched with an almost palpable misery I now associate with B flat! There is such a pervasive air of sadness that I’m not in the least surprised to discover it was used to announce to the U.S. public that President Roosevelt had passed away. 

I’m pretty sure I first heard this during Platoon – one of the better war films; but it might have been any one of a number of tv shows or films (even used int the almost overpoweringly optimistic Amelie). 

Things I learned that I don’t quite understand
but hope to by the end of this challenge
This piece of music opens with violins playing B Flat softly for 2 beats before the lower strings come in. 
Barber utilized a number of different time signatures, including a 4/2, 5/2, 6/4 and 3/2 (not a clue – I’ll research this weekend and get back to you!) resulting in a rhythm comprising of sustained notes. 
The dynamics range from pianissimo (soft) to fortissimo (loud). Which I actually knew before. (proud face)
The piece follows the arch form. Which is where a piece of music composed of repetitive sections is played in reverse (more a thematic than actual verbatim reversal) at the conclusion.  
Please listen to the piece here!



3 thoughts on “Day 2 Adagio For Strings – Samuel Barber

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