An imaginative mixture of the popular and the unusual. Barber’s only quartet has at its heart the famous Adagio for Strings: the latter is an arrangement of the second of the quartet’s two movements. That Adagio – which here benefits not only from the unfamiliarity of the chamber original but also from the Duke’s sensitively understated approach on their first recording for Collins Classics – is here surrounded by some captivating faster music (including a brief return to the opening Molto allegro’s ideas). And Robert Maycock’s excellent booklet notes hint at what those famous seven minutes of slow, sad passion in particular could really be said to be about: young homosexual love in the Austrian woods. Thirty years later, in 1966, another American in Europe, and still in his twenties, wrote his first string quartet, though it’s unlikely to be a direct reflection of love, this time in Paris.
The box set comprised 100 volumes featuring 72 pianists of the 20th century, each volume with two CDs and a booklet about the life and work of the featured pianist. The set contains a variety of composers from different eras, from Baroque to Contemporary classical.