How Hollywood made Barber’s Adagio a cultural phenomenon

Posted on: March 9, 2010

In Sunday’s (3/7) New York Times, Johanna Keller discusses the cultural legacy of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. “Barber’s centenary year (he was born on March 9, 2010, and died in 1981) is being celebrated by performances of his works, including the Adagio, his most famous composition and arguably the most often-heard work of classical music written in the last century. The Adagio is a shape shifter, widely appropriated in film and television. In recent years it has also become an unexpected hit for a number of pop musicians and remix artists.” Keller mentions that the music has been used in such films as A Very Natural Thing, Platoon, The Elephant Man, and Lorenzo’s Oil, and on South Park and The Simpsons. This week, “the Ying Quartet, resident ensemble of the Eastman School of Music, performs the chamber version at the Morgan Library & Museum on Tuesday. The next evening an ensemble of students and faculty members from the Curtis Institute of Music (Barber’s alma mater) will play the string quartet at the Allen Room in Frederick P. Rose Hall. … Marin Alsop, the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and a champion of American music, who has recorded Barber’s complete orchestral works for Naxos, remembered encountering the Adagio in her early days working as a studio violinist for film scores."

Photo by Ilse Hofmann

Posted March 9, 2010