ON THIS DAY | Barber's "Adagio For Strings" Premiered in 1938

The highly-emotive masterwork has been used in many somber moments in world history, including at the announcement of Franklin D. Roosevelt's death and the funerals of Albert Einstein and Princess Grace of Monaco

Samuel Barber Adagio


The piece was also featured in many TV shows and movies, including Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning film "Platoon."

The work is based on an ascending three-note motif and repeats it with various instruments taking turns with the deep, melancholy melody. Throughout the course of the work, the phrases become longer and move higher in range, provoking intensity and drama. There is a brief moment of silence before the last restatement of the theme.

Arturo Toscanini was credited for bringing the Adagio for Strings to wide public attention. Drawn by some of Barber’s other works, he asked the composer for music that his NBC Symphony could perform. Barber provided two short works, with Adagio for Strings as one of the two works.

The first performance was conducted by Arturo Toscanini with the NBC Symphony Orchestra.




Barber's Adagio and other Romantic Favorites for Strings |CD|

Leonard Bernstein

New York Philharmonic

Release Date: July 27, 2004