Adagio For Strings is one of the most recognizable mournful pieces of classical music. It was composed in 1936 by American Samuel Barber who is also one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music twice. Adagio For Strings is arranged for string orchestra from the second movement of his String Quartet, Op. 11. Samuel Barber rejected many arrangements of it, such as with the organ but he did transcribe the piece in 1967 for an eight-part choir, as a setting of the Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”). Adagio For Strings has featured in many television shows and movies (including Platoon) and was even played at the funerals of Albert Einstein and Princess Grace of Monaco.
- The recording of the world premiere in 1938, with Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra (hear the actual recording below) was selected in 2005 for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry at the United States Library of Congress.
- Adagio for Strings is the final song on the 2010 Peter, Paul and Mary compilation album Peter Paul and Mary, With Symphony Orchestra. Mary Travers had requested that Adagio for Strings be played at her memorial service.
- The Adagio for Strings was one of John F. Kennedy’s favorite pieces of music. Jackie Kennedy arranged a concert the Monday after his death with the National Symphony Orchestra; they played to an empty hall. The concert was broadcast by radio.
- The work is also extremely popular in the electronic dance music genre, notably in trance.
To end this post on a bright note, what piece of music would you like to have played at your funeral if at all?