works — Elmar Oliveira,violin,/St.Louis Symphony Orchestra/Leonard
Slatkin/ Chamber Soloists/ Israela Margalit, piano — EMI (2CDs) 7 24358
65612 1 *** 1/2:
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, lead for 18 years by Leonard Slatkin,
has achieved a homogeneous blended sound ideally suited to the lyrical
music of Samuel Barber. This unabashedly American “romantic” is well
served by this recording. The Violin Concerto receives a
rhapsodic, buoyant reading by Elmar Oliveira, 1978 Tchaikovsky Gold
Medal winner, with lovely partnering by Slatkin and the orchestra.
First introductions to the music of Barber are frequently by way
of the Adagio for Strings and the Overture to The School for
Scandal. Here those are played “straight up” and beautifully by
the Saint Louis Symphony, they are allowed to unfold naturally and are
most effective as a result. In fact, all of the orchestral
selections including the Three Essays for Orchestra and Medea’s Dance
of Vengeance are freshly performed and very well recorded.
The chamber music: Summer Music for Winds op.31, the Cello Sonata op.6
and the piano pieces, Excursions op.20, Nocturne op.33 and Souvenirs
op.28 are performed with panache and obvious dedication by the
principals of the New York Philharmonic and Israela Margalit, piano.
This is a highly representative collection of the music of an American
original, Samuel Barber, whose music spanned 50 years and includes
other master pieces such as Dover Beach for baritone and String
Quartet, several symphonies, the violin as well as a cello and piano
concerto, the incomparable Knoxville 1915 for soprano and
orchestra and the operas Vanessa and Antony and Cleopatra.
Barber’s voice was lyrical, classical and Romantic. While texturally
different, he is in many aspects similar to Brahms. This collection is