The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (189): Angel’s fall

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (189): Angel’s fall


norman lebrecht

September 23, 2020

Wayne Barlow? Not a composer I’ve heard before.

Now I want to hear more. He is just so timely for this season.



  • Cubs Fan says:

    We’d all like to hear more of his music. Sadly, the work in the link is the only piece of his to ever be recorded. And this Mercury recording is out of print. I first learned of Barlow from Howard Hanson and then from bassoonist friend who knew Barlow from his Eastman days. There’s so much beautiful music that is, and will remain, unknown. Our loss.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Amazing – the Edward B.Benjamin awards for “restful music” have found a champion in our genial host, after decades of sneering by purist record reviewers and others.

    Edward B. Benjamin was a wealthy industrialist who loved music, but specifically, music to relax by, or in his words, music that could “charm, soothe and inspirit” after a busy day at work “without obtrusive melody.” He put his money where his ideas were and offered substantial cash prizes to composers who wrote music that met these criteria.
    He specifically funded the Eastman School, Juilliard, and the North Carolina State Symphony to expand the repertoire that met his qualifications for restfulness.

    Howard Hanson and the Eastman Rochester Orchestra recorded at least two LPs worth of these pieces for Mercury and the records sold very well. I believe Benjamin paid for those recordings.

    Wayne Barlow was a student at, and later professor at, Eastman and wrote quite a bit of music, including electronic music (and studied with Arnold Schoenberg). Certainly not a negligible name in American music. I suspect this piece is not characteristic of his later works. But even Elliot Carter wrote “restful music” early in his career.

    Benjamin also enlisted the aid of Walter Diehl of WQXR to put together a list of classical music pieces that met Mr. Benjamin’s requirements for immediate enjoyment while the commissioning system began. RCA Victor released an LP of Stokowski items selected by Diehl for which Arthur B Benjamin wrote some of the program notes, and Diehl wrote the rest. It had a number of Stokowski’s baroque (not just Bach, but Frescobaldi, Lully Purcel and Cesti) transcriptions (including his frankly magical “Tu mancavi a tormentarmi, Crudelissima,” credited to Cesti that he redid in stereo with the Symphony of the Air). Both the NBC Symphony and “His” Symphony Orchestra perform, so I assume this was an early version of a Peter Munves style compilation from the catalog. A movement from Beethoven’s Pastorale and the Adagietto from Bizet’s music for L’Arlesienne fill it out. The cheesy cover alone makes it worth collecting.

    Obviously, Mr. Benjamin (1897-1980) was on to something, perhaps ahead of his time.

  • V. Lind says:

    I’m afraid all I see is a “Video Unavailable” graphic. I’m in Canada — we don’t usually have a problem with your linked videos even when the US reports the odd one.

    Wayne Barlow was a new name to me, too. You Tube has a couple of things, both very agreeable. Not Angel’s Fall, though. (Nor is it listed among his compositions in his Wikipedia entry). So I am intrigued as to what turned you on to him. According to a BTL comment on one of his pieces on YT, he has not been recorded much, nor is he played much.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    American Vaughan Williams? . . . (as opposed to more American John Williams [who borrowed greatly from Walton]).

    • Brettermeier says:

      “American Vaughan Williams?”

      My first thoughts exactly.

      @NL: This random “Your comment was marked as spam” is getting ridiculous.

  • Peter Owen says:

    Listening to this I was a bit surprised to read that he directed the Eastman School of Music’s electronic music studio from 1968 to 1978 .

  • Nick says:

    Reminds of Aaron Copland a little (Appalachian Spring)
    wonderful music really!

  • Michael Turner (conductor) says:

    I first got to know Barlow’s The Winter’s Passed (or Past, there seems some confusion) through a CD by Bert Lucarelli. The I came across the Mercury release I performed this piece with the Bloomsbury Chamber Orchestra back in 2000. It may well have been the UK premiere of the orchestral version. Not so long ago I was espousing its possible debt to RVW.

  • Byrwec Ellison says:

    I vaguely recognized his name from a database of orchestral premieres: Izler Solomon and the Indianapolis Symphony premiered Barlow’s “Vistas” in 1963 (commissioned and dedicated to Edward Benjamin), but there’s no trace of it in a published catalogue. Evidently, much of Barlow’s music is languishing in boxes at Eastman Rochester and waiting to be resurrected…

  • Richard Zencker says:

    Dr. Barlow was my adviser at Eastman, not that I ever fully matriculated. He was the director of the electronic music studio(s) there in the mid-1970s and was writing music quite different from this at the time. He once took me aside and gently scolded me for using electronic means to imitate instrumental sounds; he was quite particular about trying to get original timbres. I asked him to present me with my “interdepartmental” degree, which I think may have been one of his last acts before retiring. So I actually think of him often and was pleasantly surprised to see this here.

  • Ivan says:

    “The Winter’s Passed” is a standard of the [limited] contemporary oboe literature. Robert Sprenkle premiered this with Eastman-Rochester and I would believe is the oboist on this recording.