WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; The School for Scandal Overture; Adagio for Strings
PERFORMER: Detroit SO/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9684 Reissue (1991, 1993)
Samuel Barber wrote some of the most approachable music of all 20th-century American composers, so it is perhaps surprising how little of it is generally known. There’s the ubiquitous Adagio for Strings, but opportunities to hear his two fine symphonies are all too rare. The First is a single-movement work that encompasses the standard four-part structure of the medium, while the Second is a longer work in three movements. Both are strong, emotionally charged works and unmistakably American.
These performances, repackaged from earlier Chandos discs showcasing Järvi and his Detroit orchestra, could hardly be bettered. The playing in all four works here is virile, refined and well-characterised. I particularly enjoyed the liveliness and wit the players bring to the School for Scandal Overture and the Adagio is intense, atmospheric and sleekly performed. Matthew Rye