Adagio (arr Linden)

From Wind Repertory Project
Samuel Barber

Samuel Barber (arr. Linden)

General Info

Year: 1936 / 2006
Duration: c. 7:20
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Molenaar Edition
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - €18.87


Full Score
B-flat Sopranino Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II-III
B-flat Tenor Saxophone I-II
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Bass Saxophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Adagio for Strings is a work by Samuel Barber, arguably his best known, arranged for string orchestra from the second movement of his String Quartet, Op. 11.

The recording of the 1938 world premiere, with Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra, was selected in 2005 for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry at the United States Library of Congress. Since the 1938 recording, the Adagio for Strings has frequently been heard throughout the world, and was one of the few American pieces to be played in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The work became widely known when Oliver Stone used it in his 1986 move about the Vietnam War, Platoon. It has subsequently been heard in many movies, television programs, and video games.

- Program Note adapted from Wikipedia

On November 5, 1938, twenty-eight-year-old Samuel Barber burst onto the mainstream musical scene when conductor Arturo Toscanini agreed to perform and record two of the composer’s works with his NBC Symphony. This decision to program American music was somewhat unusual for Toscanini, and the coup put the young composer’s name on the map. Several months earlier, Barber had sent the legendary conductor scores for his First Essay for Orchestra as well as his new arrangement of the Adagio movement from his first string quartet. When both scores were returned without comment Barber assumed the worst, and was so depressed that he turned down an invitation to Toscanini’s home, sending his friend and fellow composer Gian Carlo Menotti instead. At the meeting Toscanini asked Menotti, “Well, where’s your friend Barber?” Menotti replied that Barber wasn’t feeling well, to which Toscanini said, “I don’t believe that. He’s mad at me. Tell him not to be mad. I’m not going to play one of his pieces. I’m going to play them both." It turned out that Toscanini had returned the scores because he had already committed both to his prodigious memory and no longer had a need for the music.

Although both works were well received upon their premiere that November evening in 1938, it is the Adagio for Strings that has since garnered the greatest acclaim and seen the widest use. Shortly after recording it, Toscanini programmed it on tours to England and South America, feeling that it best represented the potential of American music. Toscanini’s embrace of the music sparked a lively debate from those who felt Barber’s music was too old-fashioned to represent American music. While there was certainly room for debate regarding Barber’s differences from his contemporaries, there is no questioning the success and popularity of his Adagio for Strings. Indeed, it seems impossible to find an orchestra or concert hall that hasn’t featured multiple performances of the work.

While Barber never stated an elegiac intent for the Adagio, it has often been featured at the funerals of major political figures and celebrities, and is considered by many to be our “national funeral music." In this way the Adagio has achieved an iconic status not unlike Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and John Philip Sousa's The Stars and Stripes Forever. However, like any great piece of music, the emotive power of Barber’s masterpiece transcends any specific use. It succeeds because it speaks directly to the listener, and the emotional message it conveys depends largely on what a particular listener is looking for. According to Aaron Copland:

It’s really well felt, it’s believable you see, it’s not phony. He’s not just making it up because he thinks that would sound well. It comes straight from the heart, to use old-fashioned terms. The sense of continuity, the steadiness of the flow, the satisfaction of the arch that it creates from beginning to end. They’re all very gratifying, satisfying, and it makes you believe in the sincerity which he obviously put into it.

This transcription remains loyal to the original string quartet. The range and timbre of the saxophone, particularly in the extreme upper register, not only provides a visceral climax, but allows for a new engagement and emotional connection with the familiar work, as if hearing it for the first time.

- Program Note from U.S. Marine Band concert program, 14 December 2016

This arrangement for saxophone ensemble by Johan van der Linden is widely known as Adagio for Strings. However, it was published by Molenaar Edition under the title Adagio.


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer