Violin Concerto, 2nd movement, by Samuel Barber (1939)
This Remembrance Sunday, take some time to switch off from “broadcast” mode and enjoy a few moments of quiet reflection
The second movement (Andante) of Samuel Barber’s violin concerto, Op. 14, performed by Hilary Hahn with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra under Hugh Wolff.
As Michael Steinberg summarises in programme notes for the San Francisco Symphony:
The Andante begins with another inspired melody, this one given to the oboe. With touching tact, Barber lets the oboist bask in that glory, for the violin enters and occupies itself with quite different, more rhapsodic material; only at the recapitulation does the violin take the oboe theme, singing it molto espressivo low on the G-string. The coda, one of Barber’s most beautiful pages, is one of the products of the revision.
Listen to the whole piece here.
Now seems to be a particularly good time to enjoy the music of a quintessentially American composer. What were Samuel Barbers’ own personal political views? Would he be a Clintonite or a Trumpist if he were still alive and lived through the 2016 presidential election campaign? Would he believe that we are Stronger Together, or want to Make America Great Again? Would we consider Barber acceptably progressive or deeply intolerant by today’s standards?
Who cares? Today we know Barber as an American composer, not as a progressive or a conservative. Some things – like art, at its best – transcend our fierce little contemporary political debates. A point well worth keeping in mind on a day in which we recall that we are very much part of history, but blessed to be burdened with the the problems of 2016 rather than those of 1916 or 1936.
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A performance of Samuel Barber’s evocative, nostalgic “Knoxville: Summer of 1915”, performed here by the gifted soprano Dawn Upshaw, accompanied by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s with David Zinman conducting.
I heard this piece for the first time at a London Symphony Orchestra concert in 2007 and foolishly allowed it to slip from my mind until I recently stumbled upon it once again.
Well worth purchasing this particular recording if you are a Samuel Barber fan.