Samuel Barber

Agnus Dei, for chorus (arr. from 2nd mvt. of String Quartet), Op. 11

    Description by Graham Olson

    When Samuel Barber transcribed the second movement of his String Quartet No. 1 (1936) for string orchestra at the behest of conductor Arturo Toscanini, he created what became one of the most popular concert works ever written by an American. The Adagio for Strings (1938) became America's (and the world's) music of mourning. In addition to its tragic associations, the slowly unwinding cantilena evoked feelings in listeners that ranged from nostalgia to love to sexual passion.

    In recasting the Adagio for mixed choir in 1967, Barber brought to the surface the work's sense of spirituality. In contrast to the sentimental Romanticism of the original, the use of voices here provides a reverent Renaissance quality reminiscent of the music of Palestrina or Gabrieli. The Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) from the Catholic mass, a humble request for forgiveness and peace, provides the text. Barber's setting is immaculate; the intense climax conveys the most urgent portion of the text, "miserere nobis" (have mercy on us), while the blissfully contented conclusion begs, "dona nobis pacem" (grant us peace). The notes themselves are essentially unchanged from the Adagio, aside from a few necessary voicing adjustments to accommodate the sopranos. From a performance standpoint, the Agnus Dei is one of the more difficult works in the choral repertoire, requiring immense lung capacity, ability to sustain long lines, and an extensive dynamic range.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Resonus RES 10187
    2017 ABC Classics 5761869
    2016 Sony Classical 88875098932
    2016 Berlin Classics 0300716 BC
    2016 Mark Records 51318 MCD
    2015 ABC Classics 4812176
    2015 Hyperion CDA 67929
    2015 Warner Classics 825646143511
    2015 Alto MCSCD 1270
    2015 Berlin Classics 0300613BC
    2015 Decca 4739436
    2015 ABC Classics 4822429
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290854344
    2014 Linn / Linn Records BKD 117
    2014 Erato / Erato Disques / Warner Classics 2564634485
    2013 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099943329
    2013 Analekta AN 29848
    2013 ABC Classics ABC 4810644
    2012 Warner Classics 465704
    2012 Warner Classics 667007
    2012 Warner Classics 646639
    2012 Warner Classics 667000
    2012 Warner Classics 666000
    2012 Terpsichore CD 1110
    2012 Naïve V 5290
    2012 Naïve V 5301
    2012 Westminster Choir College WCC 1109
    2012 USM Media USMMTCD 029
    2012 Westminster Choir College WCC 1205
    2012 Decca 4765153
    2012 Decca
    2012 ABC Classics ABC 4765054
    2012 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099960264
    2012 Harmonia Mundi 807522
    2012 Allegro Corporation BRV 9913
    2012 Da Chiesa DCSR 120
    2011 Decca
    2011 Decca
    2011 Berlin Classics 0300227
    2011 Signum Classics 235
    2011 Decca B 001632702
    2011 Decca
    2011 Decca 2781067
    2011 Gramola 98913
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099960900
    2010 Naïve 5248
    2010 Terpsichore
    2010 Signum Classics 243
    2010 Signum Classics / Signum UK 240
    2010 Naxos 8570364
    2010 Naïve V 5204
    2010 Berlin Classics 0300151
    2010 Sony Music Distribution 770278
    2010 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099962844
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099996429
    2009 Harmonia Mundi 907534
    2009 Sony BMG / Sony Classical 7532082
    2009 Coro 16073
    2009 Sony Classical Essential Classics 88697532092
    2009 Telarc Distribution 60673
    2009 Telarc Distribution 80673
    2009 Telarc Distribution
    2008 Ars Produktion 38041
    2008 Octarium 5675
    2008 Naxos 8572133
    2008 Solo Musica 120
    2008 Virgin / Virgin Classics 8263742
    2008 Sony BMG / Sony Music Distribution 735187
    2008 Universal / Universal Classics 4766853
    2008 Decca 001229402
    2008 Decca / Universal Classics & Jazz
    2008 ABC Classics 4766830
    2008 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099952214
    2008 Naïve V 5151
    2007 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 0946389227
    2007 Decca / Universal Distribution
    2007 UMVD / Universal Classics 1731816
    2007 Decca
    2007 Classic FM 53
    2007 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2006 UCJ 1709223
    2006 Universal Distribution / UCJ 1709223
    2006 Berlin Classics 0017992
    2006 Virgin 363307
    2006 Naïve 5036
    2006 Altara Music 1010
    2006 Virgin 48727
    2006 Naxos 8559053
    2006 Coviello / Coviello Classics 40611
    2006 Silva America 6040
    2006 Naïve V4947
    2005 Coro 16031
    2005 Virgin 62498
    2005 Silva America 3015
    2005 Virgin Classics 82046
    2005 Virgin / EMI Music Distribution VTDCD601
    2005 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243476773
    2005 ABC Classics 465824
    2005 Decca 000453102
    2005 Angel Records 67014
    2004 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 67848
    2004 Avie AV0046
    2004 Arsis 145
    2004 Virgin / Virgin Classics 62146
    2004 Avie 0039
    2004 Silva America / Silva America 1161
    2004 Universal Distribution 9868054
    2004 Naïve 4982
    2003 Virgin Classics 562126
    2003 Classic FM 32
    2003 BMG 8287651015
    2003 Virgin 5620862
    2003 Telarc Distribution 80632
    2003 BMG 82876571402
    2003 Naïve V 4947
    2003 Coro 16013
    2002 Angel Records 67804
    2002 Virgin / EMI Music Distribution VTDCD437
    2002 Virgin 561890-2
    2001 RCA 63760
    2000 Erato 4295882
    2000 Collegium Records 124
    2000 Virgin 847225
    2000 RCA Victor 75605513322
    1999 BMG / RCA 69815
    1999 BMG / RCA 63450
    1999 BMG 51353
    1998 Telarc Distribution 80503
    1998 Virgin 45340
    1998 Guild GMCD7145
    1998 Delos 1608
    1997 Erato 630146342
    1997 BMG 68758
    1997 Conifer 75605 51308-2
    1996 ASV 939
    1995 Supraphon 0011
    1995 Telarc Distribution 80406
    1995 Conifer 51521
    1994 Conifer 16851
    1994 American Choral Catalog 120
    1993 Collins Records 12872
    1991 Delos 3125
    NLCA 092
    Ave
    ChurchKat
    Hyperion 66219
    Gamut Classics 535
    In Classical Mood 12038
    MCA 10782
    Khorikos
    The Gift of Music 1050
    Erato
    Universal Distribution 467 140-2DX2
    Collins Records 16002