Virus music: Madrid to play Adagio for victims daily at noon

Virus music: Madrid to play Adagio for victims daily at noon


norman lebrecht

March 30, 2020

The regional government of Madrid is flying all flags at half mast and will relay Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings daily at noon, outside its headquarters on the deserted Puerta del Sol.

The Adagio is also being played on radio and in supermarkets, together with a minute’s silence.





  • Edgar Self says:

    Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” is a fitting elegy, even if thought ubiquitous by some. It could be varied by Guillaume Lekeu’s “Adagio pour quatuor des cordes”, which if anything is even more saturated in grief, written in memory of his teacher Cesar Franck, and perhaps influencing Barber’s.

    A recording by the Liege Philhaarmonique under conductor Bartholomee is especially fin, on an Astree CD with Franck’s symphony.

    • fflambeau says:

      That’s a good suggestion Edgar. I just listened to a version over at Youtube. Very sad but beautiful too. I did not know this music prior to your comment.

      • David K. Nelson says:

        fflambeau, I think you (and others) would therefore also want to hear Lekeu’s violin sonata. It is a very beautiful and involving piece. For those who know their Proust, it is sometimes nicknamed the Vinteuil Sonata. Lekeu packed a lot into his mere 24 years.

        I won’t argue with Madrid’s choice of the Barber, but I would have gone with a piece specifically written as public grief music: Hindemith’s Trauermusik. Kim Kashkashian has a particularly nice recording with Dennis Russell Davies.

        Would it even occur to any level of government in the USofA to look to classical music for such a deep moment as this? Here the decision would be “hmmm, which recording of Kanye’s is most appropriate, and will he give us the rights for free?”

        Just thinking about it makes me need to listen to the Elgar Elegie, yet another eligible choice ….

  • Cyril says:

    Haven’t they already suffered enough?

  • fflambeau says:

    My impression is that the Adagio by Barber is well known in the USA but not so much in Europe. It is a fitting tribute.

  • Byrwec Ellison says:

    ‘half staff’ unless on a ship

  • Edgar Self says:

    Flambeau, glad you found and liked Guillaume Lekeu’s haunting “Adagio for Strings”, kin to Barber’s. David Nelson mentions Lekeu’s short life and his violin sonata that Menuhin championed in the 1930s. There’s just a handful of works and a few songs. Ten points for Proust and Vinteuil.

    Lekeu’s “Adagio pour quatuor des cordes” — he wrote another of similar title not as striking — is one the few such works: Mozart’s “Masonic Funeral Music” beloved of Bruno Walter, who spoke of it emotionally; Beethoven’s cavatina, sonata, and thanksgiving song; modal, scalewise, or diatonic; and more ceremonial pieces by Byrd, Purcell, Bach, Handel, Chopin, Wagner, Hindemith, and Richard Strauss’s “Metamorphosen” as chromatic as Tristan. Shostakovich’s viola sonata and 15th quartet among others. Barber’s is just the right length for Madrid’s purpose; Lekeu’s already is half again as long.

    I first heard Barber’s “Adagio” from Toscanini, who arranged and took it on tour to South America.

    And Byrwec Ellison, even the BBC grounded an ensign ashore at half mast yesterday instead of half staff when Brittania’s Royal Navy ruled the waves and Beehoven wrote his variationss on it.

  • Edgar Self says:

    It’s noticeable that many of these works are for intimate quartet or small ensemble, even the Grosse Fuge and Addagio e Mesto of Quartet No. 7 in C, Op. 57/1. Richard Strauss’s “Metamorphosen” is for 23 solo strings, and obviously Shostakovih’s confessional quartets and Haydn’s “Seven Last Words”, which like Shostakovich’s 15th is in six or seven movements in very slow tempi with a concluding earthquake in Haydn’s case, like the end of Cilea’s “LArlesiana”.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Guillaume Wrote his haunting “Adagio pour qutuor des cordes” in memory of his teacher and fellow Belgian Cesr Franck, who had just died after being run down by a horse-drawn carriage in a Paris street.

    In the late 1890s, Lekeu and two young French pilgrims went to Bayreuth to hear “Tristan”. At the first notes, Erik Satie burst into tears. Debussy started making notes for a parody. And Guillaume Lekeu fainted.

  • Mercedes says:

    This piece of news arrived in Italy by TV.
    It is true that music is a universal language that express the human feelings