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Adagio: Let the World Be Still

Various artists, recording locations and dates

see below for details of works and artists

Universal Classics and Jazz 4763377 [75:33 + 75:27]


Experience Classicsonline

Here’s a strange one. Compilations of adagios presumably sell well – certainly they can be found in relative abundance on the classical shelves in shops that don’t really - to all intents and purposes - actually sell classical CDs. Titles often include words like “chill” or “chilled”; here we have a subtitle – “Let the World Be Still”. It is presumably because they want to use it to make them feel relaxed that people buy such compilations. This is the first time I have listened – and I did listen all the way through in one go- to such a compilation. I have to report that that the experience actually made me feel rather tense!  Think, in part, that was because some of the pieces, such as those by Schubert and Mahler, being extracts from longer works, left me with a kind of nervous irritation when expectations of what should succeed them were frustrated; in larger part, however, I found the unrelieved diet of music of much the same tempo frustrating in a broader sense, feeling robbed of those patterns of contrast, of the architectural disposition of differentiated but related masses, which are the very stuff of serious music.


Even granted all that – and my reactions are presumably not generally shared by the intended customers of such compilations – this seems to me a pretty strange affair. It is split into one CD of ‘Orchestral Adagios’ and one of ‘Choral Adagios’. The second of these makes by far the more satisfying listening, in part because it features a number of highly-accomplished tracks by Harry Christophers and the Sixteen, stylish, consistently idiomatic and models of clear vocal texture. Whether in ‘O nata lux’ (by Tallis), Byrd’s ‘Ave verum corpus’ or the ‘Exhortation’ from John Tavener’s Exhortation and Kehama, their work is exemplary in its intelligence and its vocal security. Also very impressive are the Choir of New College, Oxford, directed by Edward Higginbottom, in Stanford’s ‘The Bluebird’.  There are very decent performances of Mozart’s ‘Ave verum corpus’ and the ‘In paradisum’ from Fauré’s Requiem. Though there are one or two tracks at a rather lower level, this second CD makes generally satisfactory listening.


It is the orchestral CD which is profoundly disappointing. There are, of course, some worthwhile tracks here, such as David Zinman’s performance of the Barber Adagio with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the version of Sibelius’ Valse triste by the Berlin Philharmonic under Karajan. But there is too much that disappoints. The baroque pieces suffer most. The movements from oboe concertos by Marcello and Albinoni get adequate, if unexciting, performances by Heinz Holliger and I Musici. Elsewhere, however, the performances by Karajan and the Berlin Philarhmonic – of Bach, Pachelbel, and the pseudo-Albinoni (not that the disc alerts you to the piece’s spuriousness – are turgid and as lacking in stylistic appropriateness as those by the Sixteen on the second disc are full of it. The heaviness of these performances soon becomes wearing – where the Albinoni adagio is concerned it is more a case of desperately waiting for the end than the ‘world standing still’.


A very mixed bag indeed – I could have summoned up a certain enthusiasm for the Choral disc on its own, but taken as a whole this falls pretty flat.


Glyn Pursglove


Details of works and artists:

Samuel Barber (1910-1981)

Adagio for Strings [8:45]

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/David Zinman

Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945)

Intermezzo (from Cavelleria Rusticana) [3:13]

National Philharmonic Orchestra/Gianandrea Gavazzeni

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)

O Mio Babbino Caro (from Gianni Schicci) [4:05]

BBC Concert Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth

Alessandro Marcello (1669-1747)

Adagio (from Oboe Concerto) [4:26]

Heinz Holliger (oboe), I Musici

Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

Canon [5:05]

Berlin Philharmonic/Herbert von Karajan

Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1750)

Adagio for strings in G Minor (arr. Remo Giazotto) [11:45]

David Bell (organ), Leon Spierer (violin), Berlin Philharmonic/Herbert von Karajan

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Air (from Orchestral Suite No3) [6:00]

Berlin Philharmonic/Herbert von Karajan

Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1750)

Adagio (from Oboe Concerto No2) [5:24]

Heinz Holliger (oboe), I Musici

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

Adagietto (from Symphony No.5) [11:52]

Berlin Philharmonic/Herbert von Karajan

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Lento (from Valse Triste) [6:03]

Berlin Philharmonic/Herbert von Karajan

Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

Adagietto (from L’Arlesienne Suite) [3:27]

Daniel Deffayet (saxophone), Berlin Philharmonic

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Adagio (from String Quintet in C, D.956) [5:18]

Weller Quartet, Dietfried Gertler (cello)

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c.1525-1594)

Kyrie (from Missa Papae Marcelli) [4:11]

The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

Antonio Lotti (c.1667-1740)

Crucifixus [3:04]

The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652)

Miserere [11:56)

The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

Samuel Barber (1910-1981)

Adagio (arr. Daryl Runswick) [5:34]

London Voices/Terry Edwards

Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585)

O Nata Lux (from Cantiones Sacrae) [1:49]

The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

William Byrd (1543-1623)

Ave Verum Corpus [4:26]

The Sixteen/Harry Christophers


Veni Creator Spiritus [2:32]

Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz

Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)

Locus Iste [2:53]

The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

Diogo Dias Melgás (1538-1600) arr. Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)

Salve Regina [4:19]

The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)

The Bluebird, Op.119 No.3 [3:25]

Choir of New College, Oxford/Edward Higginbottom

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Ave Verum Corpus, K.618 [3:39]

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge/Stephen Cleobury

Charles Gounod (1818-1893)

Ave Maria [2:52]

Ben Hulett (tenor), Helen Tunstall (harp), Choir of New College, Oxford/Edward Higginbottom

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

Pavane Op. 50 [6:40]

Choeur et Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal/Charles Dutoit

John Tavener (b.1944)

Exhortation (from Exhortation and Kohima) [3:22]

The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte (arr. Daryl Runswick) [5:22]

London Voices/Terry Edwards

George Frederic Handel (1685-1759)

Crux Fidelis (arr. Edward Higginbottom, after ‘Ombra ma fu’) [2:30]

Capricorn, Choir of New College, Oxford/Edward Higginbottom

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

In Paradisum (from Requiem) [3:19]

Choeur et Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal/Charles Dutoit

Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

Sancte Deus (Nimrod), (arr. John Langley, Steve Abbott, Simon Lole and Ian Tilney [3:27]

All Angels, City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra/Simon Lole




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