Samuel Barber : Agnus Dei : Ex Cathedra

Composers like Aaron Copland, William Schuman, Roy Harris, and Ned Rorem – not all of them sympathetic to Barber’s music in general – look at this work and shake their heads, wondering how he pulled it off. They fall back on phrases like "finely felt," "poetic," "nothing phoney," "a love affair." There’s no real complication to the Adagio, no technique or unusual turn of harmony that holds the secret of its success. One cannot even pick one passage over another, any more than you can say one point makes the beauty of an arch. This is a masterpiece.

Source: Classical Net – Barber – Adagio

Samuel Barber’s   "Agnus Dei" is his setting of his own Adagio for strings. This performance of it is  by the English choir Ex Cathedra conducted by Jeffrey Skidmore. It’s the most beautiful recording of it I know of.


7 thoughts on “Samuel Barber : Agnus Dei : Ex Cathedra

  1. Echo that! It is a masterpiece. Well phrased, No “one point makes the beauty of an arch”. The beauty is found in the wholeness of the structure each piece adding strength to the up-lift. The keystone is Barber’s inspired genius. Thank you for your research and above all your care.

    Your bro.

    • When I came across that quotation I had a “Eureka” moment. Glad you’re enjoying the site – it’s a labour of love.

      Yes, brothers in humanity and in religion as some very dear friends of mine put it.


  2. This piece became a big hit in Korea in 1986 as it was played in the last scene of Oliver Stone’s film “Platoon,” which was also a hit in the country. That’s how Samuel Barber has become well known to many in Korea. For this piece, I prefer the one sung by the Dresdner Kreuzchor.

  3. Thanks, Mark! Thrilled to listen to this again! Besides, in this video it is followed by “Abendlied,” which I used to listen to every evening for months last year. So beautiful as to move me to tears whenever I listen to it. The Dresdner Kreuzchor is scheduled to come to Korea–in as many as four years!–for concert this coming December. My heart is already filled with joy and expectation. :-)

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