Samuel Barber Agio For Strings

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Title: Adagio for Strings (1936)
Composer: Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
Summary: Short orchestral work taken from the second movement of his String Quartet, Opus. 11. Perhaps Barber’s greatest composition, leaving a significant impact on audiences around the world after its debut.

Background information: This piece was composed in 1936 during Barber’s vacation in Europe. The second movement comes after a chaotic first movement and was inspired primarily by Virgil’s Georgics. The slow second movement exemplifies Barber’s propensity towards composing long melodic lines. The piece began to gain recognition during World War II as an homage to the many fallen soldiers in the United States. This solemn piece serves as an exemplification of the shift from early modern to late modern music. Originally composed in 1936, a completed orchestral version was not performed until 1938 by Arturo Toscanini. After the initial debut, Adagio’s popularity took off as it was performed all over the world and quickly gained recognition through multiple public performances. Overall, the piece was received with strongly positive reviews.
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It is because of this that his piece became famous during times of stress and why its prominence in media and classical music is still strong. Furthermore, Larson also argues that the intimacy of this piece creates a sense of truth and resolution within listeners. At the same time, by the end of the piece and by the end of Adagio’s emotional phrases, one still wrestles with what this truth means. For Larson, the true beauty of this piece lies in its ability to uncover “undiscovered feelings” and make listeners feel the need to grieve unexplained
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