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BBC Music Magazine, October 2016

Barber’s Medeawas commissioned and choreographed by Martha Graham just two years after Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Cave of the Heart, as Graham called it, became one of her favourite works. Based on the Ancient Greek tragedy Medea, the story begins after Jason has abandoned his wife Medea for another woman, and follows the heroine as she seeks revenge for this betrayal. Barber’s urgent score for 14 instruments is Stravinskian in its use of rhythm, especially in Medea’s deadly ‘Dance of Vengeance’, but still preserves Barber’s lyricism. Like Copland, Barber later arranged the ballet into an orchestral suite. © 2016 BBC Music Magazine

Penguin Guide, January 2009

Barber’s Cello Concerto of 1945 is more elusive than the Violin Concerto, but Wendy Warner concentrates on its sometimes wry lyricism, and she articulates with brilliant point in the gentle scherzando passage of the finale. Marin Alsop is a persuasive partner, relishing the often plangent orchestral backcloth and securing a splendidly committed response from the Scottish players, both here and in the often astringent score for Medea. The selection is generous, with the atmospheric central portrayal of Medea herself and her dance of vengeance made the focal point of the score. The famous Adagio for Strings then becomes essentially an elegy, but reaches a passionate climax. Fine, vivid recording…

Jason Serinus
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), January 2009

Though Barber won the Fifth Circle of New York for the engaging cello concerto, it is far less known than the violin concerto—all the more reason to give it a hearing.

Walter Simmons
Fanfare, June 2002

With more sensitive, polished performances of this music available today, such as those featuring the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, under the sympathetic direction of Marin Alsop, captured by Naxos with far greater depth, clarity, and richness…Listeners should be aware that Volumes 1 and 2 of Naxos’s budget-priced Barber orchestral cycle offer superior renditions of these three works (and others as well).

James Jolly
Gramophone, January 2002

Barber’s ever popular Violin Concerto coupled with some early orchestral works. A real bargain.

Richard Todd
Ottawa Citizen, December 2001

Cellist Wendy Warner is featured in wonderful performances of Cello Concerto, op. 22, Medea Suite, op. 23 and the beloved Adagio for Strings, op. 11.

La voix du Nord
October 2001

La passionnante collection American Classics chez Naxos permet de découvrir le reste de son [Barber] œuvre symphonique et concertante, impregnee d’un néo-romantisme de bon aloi, ce qui n’empêche pas une violence sous-jacente. Comme ici, dans le superbe Concerto pour Violoncelle ou le ballet Médée

Richard Todd
Ottawa Citizen, June 2001

Peter Dickinson
Gramophone, March 2001

In contrast to the familiar Adagio, Medea is a real rarity—both are well performed here, and Warner is convincing in the Concerto

The main interest here is probably Medea, the suite for full orchestra derived from Barber’s original score for 13 instruments composed for a ballet by Martha Graham. The only competing version in the British catalogue is on another Barber collection with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under Andrew Schenck. My somewhat grudging review of that release suggested that Barber’s music was not nasty enough for such a gruesome subject as Medea, who murdered her own two children by Jason after he ran off with Glauce. She’d previously killed and dismembered her brother. Even in the new recording the score comes across rather blandly, but it is elegant Barber, whose slightly detached approach to the ancient Greek tragedy is ni the neo-classical tradition.

The Cello Concerto was the work written immediately before Medea. It’s a demanding piece which has never achieved the popularity of the earlier Violin Concerto. Wendy Warner has it all well under control, confident on the heights and assertive in the allegro movements, and is well supported throughout. She’s suitably soulful in the chamber textures of the Andante, is virtually a siciliano but with greater rhythmic subtlety. It seems to be conventional for cellists to treat the solo passages in the fast movements rather freely—once they’ve reached the peaks they like to stay there…Barber’s ubiquitous Adagio—his emotional smash-hit—needs no introduction since there are approaching 80 recordings in the British catalogue and it completes an attractive anthology.

Deborah Calland/ George Hall
BBC Music Magazine, March 2001

Lyricism and obsessive patterns are finely realised by the RSNO, while conductor Marin Alsop shows a keen sensitivity to both scores and balances their rhetoric with the clean-edged clarity of their textures. In addition, her performance of the now-ubiquitous Adagio for Strings is a model of restraint, proving the saying that less equals more. Attractive sound, with a wide range and plenty of definition.

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