Barber (1910 – 1981) String Quartet, Op. 11 (1937/1943) 1 Molto Allegro e Appassionato 2 Molto Adagio 3 Molto Allegro Samuel Barber wrote only one string quartet and while it presented him with great problems in its composition, it provided him with the key to fame, prosperity and musical recognition. Barber began work on the quartet in the summer of 1936 expecting to have finished it for the Curtis Quartet to premier it in their autumn series.  The first movement was completed and then the second, which Barber indicated in a letter was, “a knockout.”  But then it began to get difficult.  The expected movements did not materialize, no matter how much Barber struggled and the final version has only the very short third and last movement in the completed score.  The Pro Arte Quartet premiered it in December. Barber then withdrew and reworked it, finally republishing it in 1943.  The first movement is based on a strong rhythmic statement, which is thematically built on the interval of a semitone rather than a longer romantic, melodic line.  This shows all the qualities of becoming a taut and rigorous classical-like movement.  However, after this dynamic opening section there follows a more lyrical, almost liturgical response-like section.  The opening material reappears, suggesting a loose sonata form movement and ends with the essential building block of the piece, the semitone with its defining rhythmic element. The second movement has become the famous “Adagio,” since arranged for a variety of ensembles and used all over he world for events and moments of great pathos, solemnity and emotion.  It is one of the most recorded pieces in the catalogue.  Barber knew he had hit on a good thing and made an arrangement early on for strings that Toscanini premiered and recorded.  The movement is simply based on a mode-like (Phrygian) melodic idea first presented by violin.  It builds up, using the theme canonically, to an emotional climax before subsiding to its peaceful close. The final movement that presented so much difficulty uses the same material as the first movement.  In fact it uses 52 reworked bars from the original score as a sort of coda or tailpiece to the other two movements and as the last two movements are intended to be played without a break the piece is in reality a two movement work. Remembered largely for the Adagio, Barber’s quartet is both challenging and interesting to play and places into context the one massively successful movement.
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Barber (1910 – 1981) String Quartet, Op. 11 (1937/1943) 1 Molto Allegro e Appassionato 2 Molto Adagio 3 Molto Allegro Samuel Barber wrote only one string quartet and while it presented him with great problems in its composition, it provided him with the key to fame, prosperity and musical recognition. Barber began work on the quartet in the summer of 1936 expecting to have finished it for the Curtis Quartet to premier it in their autumn series.  The first movement was completed and then the second, which Barber indicated in a letter was, “a knockout.”  But then it began to get difficult.  The expected movements did not materialize, no matter how much Barber struggled and the final version has only the very short third and last movement in the completed score.  The Pro Arte Quartet premiered it in December. Barber then withdrew and reworked it, finally republishing it in 1943.  The first movement is based on a strong rhythmic statement, which is thematically built on the interval of a semitone rather than a longer romantic, melodic line.  This shows all the qualities of becoming a taut and rigorous classical-like movement.  However, after this dynamic opening section there follows a more lyrical, almost liturgical response-like section.  The opening material reappears, suggesting a loose sonata form movement and ends with the essential building block of the piece, the semitone with its defining rhythmic element. The second movement has become the famous “Adagio,” since arranged for a variety of ensembles and used all over he world for events and moments of great pathos, solemnity and emotion.  It is one of the most recorded pieces in the catalogue.  Barber knew he had hit on a good thing and made an arrangement early on for strings that Toscanini premiered and recorded.  The movement is simply based on a mode-like (Phrygian) melodic idea first presented by violin.  It builds up, using the theme canonically, to an emotional climax before subsiding to its peaceful close. The final movement that presented so much difficulty uses the same material as the first movement.  In fact it uses 52 reworked bars from the original score as a sort of coda or tailpiece to the other two movements and as the last two movements are intended to be played without a break the piece is in reality a two movement work. Remembered largely for the Adagio, Barber’s quartet is both challenging and interesting to play and places into context the one massively successful movement.