SAMUEL BARBER Adagio for Strings, Op. 11
Barber's Adagio for Strings originated as the slow movement of a string quartet the 26-year-old composed in 1936. Two years later, he sent his arrangement for string orchestra to Arturo Toscanini, and the great conductor's advocacy launched its fame with the 1938 premiere and a 1942 recording. This ethereal meditation has since emerged as an iconic piece of 20th-century American music.
BÉLA BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 1
Bartók was a virtuoso pianist who formed fruitful partnerships with some of the leading violinists of his time, resulting in performances, recordings, and new compositions. He wrote his First Violin Concerto between 1907 and 1908 for Stefi Geyer, with whom he was in love at the time. Bartók decided to divert some of the music to another piece, Two Portraits, and the original concerto was premiered only posthumously a half-century later.
ANTON BRUCKNER Symphony No. 9 in D Major
A devout Catholic, Bruckner composed an abundant quantity of sacred music, but in the latter half of his career, he concentrated on writing grand symphonies. These imposing orchestral cathedrals of sound unite the sacred and secular in the most sincere and moving ways, nowhere more so than in his unfinished Symphony No. 9—his last work—which he dedicated to "Almighty God."