ComposerBarber, Samuel ((1910 - 1)
TitleAdagio, Op. 11
ArrangerJohan Van Der Linden
RemarksSAMUEL BARBER (1910 – 1981)
(arr. J. v/d Linden)
He originally wrote it as the second movement of a string quartet in 1936, but within two years was arranged it for string orchestra. In this form, it became not only his most popular work, but also an unofficial American anthem of mourning, played after the deaths of Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy. The two versions, string quartet and string orchestra, make their own separate effect. The string quartet version, is intimate and occurs in the context of other movements. Not surprising for an artist with wide literary interests, Barber found initial inspiration in a passage from Vergil's Georgics describing how a rivulet gradually becomes a large river. Although the idea doesn't limit the Adagio's emotional meaning, you can see how it influences the overall shape of the work -a long arch beginning quietly, gradually building to an overwhelming climax, and winding down to a quiet end. Barber constructs the long-lined, spiralling theme from musical sequence- that is, a group of notes is repeated slightly higher (as in this case) or lower. Sequence is the most elementary form of variation, and most composers learn to use it sparingly. Barber builds an entire piece from it. The version for saxophone quartet gives an extra dimension to the piece; the natural feeling of breathing a musical phrase.

Or another version of the programme notes for this piece:

Barber's Adagio for strings - originally the second movement of his string quartet No. 1 op. 11- has become one of the most frequently performed American works in the orchestral repertoire. Johan van der Linden's arrangement for saxophone quartet restores the intimacy of the chamber music version. The Adagio has a profound effect on its listeners - the remarkable ability to draw the listener into a quiet meditation. Because of this, Barber's Adagio for Strings was played at the funerals of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, as well as Princess Grace and Raineir III, Prince of Monaco. Barber's Adagio for Strings can also be found in movies like Platoon, The Elephant Man, S1m0ne, Lorenzo's Oil, El Norte (1984), The Scarlet Letter, and Amélie.