Barber: Complete Orchestral Works / Alsop, Royal Scottish National Orchestra

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Reviews of the discs that make up this set:


The First Symphony's 21-minute span seems over in a flash; the work has seldom sounded so grippingly intense and tightly focused. Alsop's emotionally expansive, let-it-all-hang-out excitement brings an unrivaled authority to this still comparatively neglected work. The way she builds the climax of the slow section following the scherzo alone is worth the price of this disc. Clearly Alsop has a keen grasp of Barber's idiom. The First Essay for Orchestra brings thrills of its own: its opening really broods, while the swift central development section passes by like a ghostly wind: superb. Finally, Alsop offers what is clearly the finest-ever performance of the much maligned Second Symphony. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra plays with passion. This is an outstanding disc for fans of Barber's music, and one of the finest releases to date in Naxos' American Classics series.

– David Hurwitz,


Lyricism and obsessive patterns are finely realised by the RSNO, while conductor Marin Alsop shows a keen sensitivity to both scores and balances their rhetoric with the clean-edged clarity of their textures. In addition, her performance of the now-ubiquitous Adagio for Strings is a model of restraint, proving the saying that less equals more. Attractive sound, with a wide range and plenty of definition.

– BBC Music Magazine


Here at last we have a recording of Barber's marvelous Piano Concerto to rival (if not surpass) the classic Szell/Browning recording for CBS. Prutsman puts steel into the music where required, but he offers a slow movement of great delicacy and tenderness too. He knows when to back off and let the orchestra have the spotlight, and together with Alsop manages a genuine dialog in such passages as the finale's second calm episode (music that's pure Prokofiev in its ironic wit). As for the couplings, the catchy Commando March plays itself, and Die Natali, a marvelously inventive fantasia on Christmas carols, receives a lovely performance. Why this charming piece isn't hauled out every December and played to death, as it surely deserves to be, is a genuine mystery. An essential acquisition for anyone who cares about Barber's music.

– David Hurwitz,


James Buswell plays a mean fiddle, offering a nicely singing opening Allegro, a rapt Andante, and an impressively brilliant finale. Conductor Marin Alsop stays with him all the way, fashioning an appealingly fresh and rhythmically spirited accompaniment. Alsop and the Scottish National Orchestra [also give] an energetic rendition of Souvenirs and a sensitive reading of Barber's very rarely heard Serenade for Strings (his Op. 1).

– David Hurwitz,


None of the performances on this new release is less than superb; moreover, no one who has been using the Naxos series to build his library of Barber works risks being disappointed by this or any of the other releases. This new Naxos release is especially notable for its extremely rich yet transparent sound quality and for painstakingly shaped phrasing by the Scottish National Orchestra.

– Walter Simmons, Fanfare


This sixth and final disc in Naxos’s series dedicated to Barber and featuring Marin Alsop and the RSNO is worth getting for the Capricorn Concerto. Even had the rest of this release been comprised of scraps off the compositional workbench (something that is definitely not the case), the present version of Barber’s affectionate salute to his home, family, and the Baroque would deserve to be heard. It is the gentlest, most lyrical of readings, with poignancy in its more tender moments and bracing drollery in the rest. In its playfulness, energy, and lucidity, this version is the antipode of so many dryly academic recordings that have appeared over the years. The rest of the works on this release range from relatively well known to the hardly ever heard. In these pieces, the RSNO is again first-rate, and Alsop’s conducting a fine example of clarity, nuance, and balance. Sound quality is exemplary, and detailed. Any lover of Barber’s music will want all six CDs.

– Barry Brenesal, Fanfare

and praise for the complete set

"These are mostly excellent performances...The soloists in the three concertos—Wendy Warner (cello), James Buswell (violin), and Stephen Prutsman (piano)—are particularly excellent, even if they don’t efface memories of Stern/Bernstein in the Violin Concerto, or Browning/Szell in the Piano Concerto. Still, having all of Barber’s orchestral music (without chorus), including the Second Symphony, in a box is very handy, and I can’t imagine anyone who purchases this set having any regrets. Certainly it’s the most impressive achievement yet in Alsop’s discography, and a real feather in the cap of Naxos’ American Classics series. A major release." – David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8506021

  • UPC: 747313602131

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Samuel Barber

  • Conductor: Marin Alsop

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Royal Scottish National Orchestra

  • Performer: James Buswell, John Gracie, Karen Jones, Karina Gauvin, Lesley Craigie, Louise Winter, Roderick Williams, Simon Wall, Stephane Rancourt, Stephen Prutsman, Thomas Trotter, Wendy Warner