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American composer Samuel Barber was born on March 9, 1910. Where would contemporary film and TV scores be without his famous Adagio for Strings?

Platoon, The Elephant Man, Sicko, Amelie – episodes of The Simpsons, Big Brother (U.K.), South Park, Seinfeld and ER have all enriched their visuals by tapping into the work’s heart-wrenching and dramatic qualities.

Beginning quietly, the strings tease out a melodic line that builds from a whisper to a loud, cathartic climax and, after a brief gasp for air, resolves with a resigned sigh. 

The piece originated as the second movement of Barber’s String Quartet Op. 11, and has developed the dubious reputation as one of the “saddest classical works ever written" (according to listeners of BBC’s Today). Not only is it frequently requested at funerals, but it’s considered one of the 20th century’s most popular compositions, and induces an emotional state however it’s packaged – as Dutch DJ Tiesto discovered in his electronic dance mix!


Does DJ Tiesto's club mix make Samuel Barber roll over in his grave? Or is this a way for classical music to reach a younger audience? Let us know in the comments below or write to us at classical@cbc.ca.


Related links

Mozart's Don Giovanni, live from the Met

Music that made Jean-Marie Zeitouni want to conduct 

Trotter takes Vancouver Chamber Choir for a spin

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Today in history: Samuel Barber was born in 1910

American composer Samuel Barber was born on March 9, 1910. Where would contemporary film and TV score…

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