There's more to Barber than his Adagio for Strings
--hijacked by the movies as a universal anthem for wartime angst--so it's great to hear these lesser-known works. His output, particularly the smaller-scale works, offer rich rewards. The overture to Sheridan's witty comedy The School for Scandal
is a delightful romp with meandering melodies that conjure up images of wagon trains on the prairie while the haunting expansive theme of the Essay
echoes the mood of the Adagio
and is not easily forgotten.
Barber's symphonies are somewhat uneven in quality, mainly because of his extensive revisions, and veer from the amazing to the mundane. Alsop and the RSNO create a lustrous sound and the first symphony in particular gives the cracking brass section ample opportunity to show off. It's Sibelian-like qualities couldn't be more different from the second, sounding uncannily like Britten's Peter Grimes written two years earlier in 1942. --Susan Nickalls