Saturday, November 04, 2006

Barber's Adagio for Strings

All Things Considered, November 4, 2006 · In November 1938, conductor Arturo Toscanini led the NBC Symphony Orchestra in the premiere performance of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings." The concert was broadcast from New York to a radio audience of millions across America.

Celebrated for its fragile simplicity and emotion, the "Adagio" might have seemed an odd match for Toscanini, known for his power and drama as a conductor. But according to Mortimer Frank, author of Arturo Toscanini: The NBC Years, despite the director's force and intensity, he was capable of "wonderful delicacy and tenderness and gentleness."

The year 1938 was a time of tumult. America was still recovering from the Depression and Hitler's Germany was pushing the world towards war. Toscanini himself had only recently settled in America after fleeing fascist Italy. The importance of the broadcast performance during this time is noted by Joe Horowitz, author of Understanding Toscanini: "Toscanini's concerts in New York... once he was so closely identified with the opposition to Mussolini, the opposition to Hitler -- these were the peak public performances in the history of classical music in America. I don't think any concerts before or since excited such an intense emotional response, and I don't think any concerts before or since evoked such an intense sense of moral mission."
Read all at link above. You can also listen to the piece there.

Feeling a depth of sadness I have not felt in along time I sought out my friend Kahlil Gibran and he said: "Sadness is but a wall between two gardens." So is this Adagio a most beautiful wall and perhaps not so solid, not so insurmountable, perhaps more like a veil. Oh thank you, sweet friend. Thank you.

me in my sadness in the gardens of the EE with Barber, Toscanini, Gibran, John, Jesse, and you...

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