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BARBER: Adagio for Strings – BRUCKNER: String Quintet in F Major – Konzerthaus Kammerorch., Berlin- Cugate Classics

BARBER: Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 – BRUCKNER: String Quintet in F Major – Konzerthaus Kammerorchester, Berlin- Cugate Classics CG013- two multichannel SACDs (5.0), 50:26 [Distr. by Naxos] (10/14/16) *****:

A lovely paring of moving works for strings by Barber and Bruckner.

Back in 2004 the BBC asked its radio listeners to vote for the saddest music ever written, Barber’s Adagio For Strings won hands down. It’s a lovely piece, and the outcome of the poll is not a great surprise. It’s been recorded many times, and it’s especially nice to have a well-played SACD of this work.

The disk also offers Bruckner’s String Quartet in F Major. The work was composed at the suggestion of the famous Viennese violinist Joseph Hellmesberger. Written about the time of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, it is a surely a Romantic work, symphonic in scale but rather intimate in character. The Adagio, in contrast to Barber’s sadness, expresses transcendent bliss. Both pieces are very well played by Konzerthaus Kammerorchester of Berlin. Sayako Lusaka and Michael Erxleben are the Concertmasters.

In terms of sonics, I find no fault. The realism of the strings, the dynamic range, and the lower registers are all served well by the SACD high resolution format. Instrument positions are solid, while the rear surrounds provide very low hall ambiance.

There are many recordings of the Barber Adagio, but this one is highly competitive and recorded in high resolution. The Bruckner is also a winner in all respects.

—Mel Martin

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