Adagio for Strings

Thursday, September 23, 2010
Posted in category Just Stuff

I must post these videos of my favorite musical piece of all time. The first video is a brilliant Leonard Slatkin performance conducting the BBC Orchestra at the Albert Hall in London shortly after 9/11. Slatkin is my favorite conductor, a spitfire who has been in trouble in recent times as he has been accused of showing up for rehearsals – and shows – unprepared. Slatkin is currently the Music Director of the DSO (Detroit Symphony Orchestra).

Slatkin was shredded by the media for his recent departure from the Metropolitan Opera’s “La Traviata” in April. Read the Star-Tribune article –  it is fascinating.

It was the widely repeated assumption — influenced, he says, by a major misreading of his online diary — that he arrived in New York unprepared to conduct Verdi’s masterpiece.

“I never said that,” said Slatkin, music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO). “I was maybe even too prepared. I knew this opera inside out; I could have almost conducted from memory.”

This article in the LA Times sheds some more light on the “The Ghosts of Versailles” vs. Verdi’s “La Traviata” conundrum faced by Slatkin. I have tickets to three DSO (Detroit Symphony Orchestra) performances between now and the end of the year, so I shall be able to see for myself whether or not he is on target. In previous 2010 appearances, I have been in awe of his performance. When Slatkin is on, he is magnificent. When he is off, he can be trouble.

The second video is new to me this week: the Choir of Trinity College choral version of Agnus Dei sung to the theme of Adagio for Strings. This version of the song is so haunting, so beautiful, so spiritual. I have been playing this non-stop and can’t seem to get enough of it.

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14 Responses to Adagio for Strings

  1. Craig Mason says:

    September 24th, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Karen, I love your blog. Stuff like this is a welcome deviation. I follow a lot of blogs and yours ranks among the top 2 or 3. Keep up the great work.


  2. David says:

    September 24th, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    For a little while, I think in the late 1970′s, Slatkin conducted in New Orleans. I thought he was great.

  3. Sal says:

    September 24th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Beautiful. Thanks Karen.

  4. liberranter says:

    September 24th, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Beautiful links, Karen! I hadn’t heard Barber’s Adaggio in years and had forgotten how wonderful it is.

  5. Anthony Michael says:

    September 24th, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Unbelievable…wow. Like you, and so many others, I love this piece of music. I have over ten different versions of Adagio for Strings (symphony, electronic, choral, flute, etc) but I this is the first time I’ve heard this version. Very powerful, and as you stated, hauntingly beautiful–it just seems to resonate down in the solar plexus area every time I hear it. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Mark D. says:

    September 24th, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    That version of Agnus Dei is magnificent.

  7. Karen De Coster says:

    September 24th, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    Thanks, Craig. Sometimes I get people saying, “What does this have to do with libertarianism?” And I write back, “Well…..nothing!”

  8. Iluvatar says:

    September 25th, 2010 at 1:16 am

    OK; I will continue to be UNCOOL!

    This stuff was- actually quite pleasant – reminds me of early Geneis (3rd album).

    But as a progrocker, DUDES! My heart lives in the sun!!

    Here is some of a prog expert’s alternatives: 1st try ELP and their version of the “Bolero” (which is my FAV classical musical format + more!!! )

    ELP, Bolero:

    “”, & “” & And now for some more (now I) am going to get mean! “”

    :But let us not stop there! Let us go further! And here is YES!: htp://; Hey gzng

    That is just a sprinkling of what is out there.

    Peace brothers…

  9. Iluvatar says:

    September 25th, 2010 at 2:37 am

    At least my kids got to listen to this stuff before they GREW-UP!!!!!

    Yes, ELP, King Crimson,= and Traffic!! Put that stuff out there when they are young! Including the Who & Pink Foyd!

    Th0ye will grow up & become adults right in your face!

    Then it will be too late!

    Parents, do it now! Bye…

  10. Alex says:

    September 25th, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Karen, I guess we could tie this into “libertarianism” by citing that if major media can’t get economic policy and civil liberties and law straight, why should we believe anything else “critics” (“those who can, do, those who can’t, write for the Times”) say, even when it comes to music and conductors.

    I would be MORE inclined to attend a performance based upon “critical drubbing.” True artistry is supposed to raise passion and emotions. To wit, Stravinsky’s opening night for “Rite of Spring” …

  11. Elisabeth says:

    September 25th, 2010 at 11:36 am

    I rediscovered this piece this summer after listening to an episode of Exploring Music.  It moves me to tears.  Slatkin’s passion is sure adding to the waterworks!  Some versions of this seem wooden by comparison.  Thank you for sharing. 

  12. Karen De Coster says:

    September 25th, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Elisabeth: please tell me what “Exploring Music” is? Sounds interesting.

  13. Tom Stenzel says:

    September 26th, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Hi Karen

    I’m not a big fan of Barber but the Andagio for Strings is one of his best works.

    The family and I usually see the DSO once or twice a year. Hope all of us can see them with all the labor problems they’re having. I was looking forward to this season. Having gone through the days of Günther Herbig and the big improvement Neeme Järvi made, Leonard Slatkin is the best conductor I can remember.

    OK, I’m old enough to remember Antal Dorati but I’ll never admit it.

  14. Iluvatar says:

    September 27th, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    OK guys – my apologies -for those last 2 “loopy” meesages.

    I got an initial read from the Ortho surgeon last Friday – NO surgery on the hand – yet!

    Find out this Friday…

    And, as regards the “loopy” messages … ahem… beer was involved in the incident (DUDE! it was 2:30 in the AM for crying out loud; and I ain’t taking alpha lipoic acid on a daily basis anymore? wasn’t that clear?)

    I guess I wanted to make 2 messages:

    1) music is one of the pathways to your soul – PERIOD!

    2) if you have kids, then HELP them learn that gift! They sponge of you when they are young!

    They may not end up listening to the stuff you are into – but – they will appreaciate music as a means to accessing their soul.

    Job Done!

    For interested parties, “Abaddon’s Bolero” comes from ELP’s 3rd album, but a better example of the role of classical music in progressive rock lies in ELP’s 1st album entitled: “Clotho – and the three fates”.

    The YES album of those links comes from their album “Relayer”, one of their MOST overlooked albums.

    My comment about the “sun” referred not only to the songs from YouTube but was also a double entendre referring to YES’s “Tales From Topograhical Oceans”, Track #4 “Nous Sommes Du Soleil” (We are of the Sun).

    Now a note of warning:

    Anyone desiring to listen to the full song of “g.o.d.” (that is the prog reference to it, in English, please: Gates Of Delirium) off of the album “Relayer” had better be prepared. This is very energetic stuff. Kinda like “Liquid Tension Experiment”, 1st album. It is very analogous to Rush’s “2112″, which is Rock’s most prominent example of a hard rock anthem.

    Be forewarned…

    Damn! It sure is hard tot type w/ a splint.\..

    All I know, is that EVERY (recent) playing of “Relayer” involved the main stereo, @ 1/4 volume (that is as high as youy can hear), on all 4 Klipsch’s (due to their efficiency – you can’t take the volume any higher – you won’t be able to hear yorself scream!).

    You can hear it all the way down the block and the house “shakes”.

    Oh yes, ahem…beer is typically involved then as well…


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