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Daniel Felsenfeld
Listen: Life with Classical Music, December 2011

Barber’s expert iterations and brilliant orchestral interweaving of darker tunes lie “We Three Kings,” “O Come Emmanuel” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” will satisfy those who seek more profound works lying outside the usual holiday fare. © 2011 Listen: Life with Classical Music

Greg Hettmansberger
Dane101, January 2011

John DeMain and his orchestra will begin the New Year with a nod to last year’s centennial celebrant, Samuel Barber. His Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance, is a repertoire choice which allows the orchestra to flex its own virtuosic muscles. If you fall in love with the work, or just want to start your own Barber collection, Naxos has a fine CD with Marin Alsop and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The disc includes the Piano Concerto, Die Natali and the Commando March.

Penguin Guide, January 2009

Stephen Prutsman gives a powerful reading of Barber’s formidable Piano Concerto, fully in command of the bravura writing of the outer movements and tenderly expressive in the central Canzone. As a bargain alternative, this is very welcome. With Marin Alsop a most sympathetic Barber interpreter, the Concerto is well supplemented by the well-known concert work drawn from the Medea ballet, the genial and colourful fantasia on Christmas Carols, Die Natali, written at the same period as the concerto in memory of Serge and Natalie Koussevizky, and the wartime of Commando March. Well-balanced sound, if with strings on the light side.

Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News, February 2003

"This is the third release in Naxos' survey of Barber's orchestral music, a series that goes from strength to strength. Marin Alsop, now music director of Andrew Litton's former orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony in England, has the Scottish orchestra playing with brilliance and suppleness, and the recorded sound is clear and open.

Especially welcome indeed, revelatory - is Stephen Prutsman's performance of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1962 Piano Concerto. Audibly inspired by Prokofiev and Ravel, the work was conceived for and long associated with the American pianist John Browning, who died Jan. 2. Mr. Prutsman's is a more "modern" performance, if you will - tauter, more sinewy, but still beautifully shapely."

Anthony Barton
BBC Music Magazine, November 2002

"Marin Alsop's continuing Samuel Barber series for Naxos is exceptionally well planned. The standards of performance here are at least as high as on previous issues. The RSNO seems unfazed by the technical demands of the Concerto, even in its breakneck five-time finale, and the American Stephen Prutsman is a strong, characterful soloist. Marin Alsop captures the dark, brooding atmosphere of the Medea scene well. The recording of the orchestra is exceptionally vivid...collectors of the Naxos series can add this volume with confidence."

Music Week, October 2002

"Alsop's survey of orchestral works by Samuel Barber is evidence that the composer of the world's best-known Adagio was much more than a one-hit wonder. This latest addition to Naxos' indispensable American Classics series offers a strongly-etched performance of Barber's Piano Concerto and also includes his imaginative and refreshingly unsentimental suite of Christmas carols, Die Natali."

Danny Felsenfeld
Time Out New York

"At last, Samuel Barber's Piano Concerto, a major work that garnered a Pulitzer Prize in 1962, is receiving some overdue attention. Who knows why this wonderful work by one of America's most important composers has been so seldom performed in recent decades--perhaps it was too tonal for the serialists and too prickly for the romantics? Whatever the case, here Marin Alsop leads pianist Steven Prustman and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in an elegant yet open-throttled reading of this underplayed and too-infrequently recorded masterwork.

The artists offer a lucid reading, deftly navigating the piece's architecture with breathtaking musicality and the appropriate angularity. The first movement is a thrill ride, broken up by lovely, tranquil moments. The second is achingly beautiful, spare and careful; the third aggressive and driven without being angry or severe. The collaboration of these performers is stellar, as each is capable of both taking and relinquishing the spotlight as needed.

The rest of this all-Barber program is no less impressive. Die Natali is a gorgeously played fantasia on Christmas carols that ought to be trotted out as standard Yuletide fare--it would be a welcome respite from the endless Messiah's and Nutcrackers. The Commando March, a spry, off-kilter military number (imagine Sousa crossed with Stravinsky) is afforded careful attention and infused with fascinating bonhomie. Only Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance falls slightly short: Alsop is almost too careful, too controlled. Though her reading is certainly intelligent and musical, it could use a little more fury.

With customary fearlessness, Naxos has once again unearthed hidden gems while giving talented musicians who aren't top names a chance to show their stuff. And at the label's usual rock-bottom price ($7-$8, depending on where you shop) what have you got to lose?"

Terry Barfoot
MusicWeb International

Naxos is rightly proud of its imaginative approach to repertoire, and this collection features some well known Barber pieces alongside rarities. The major work is undoubtedly the Concerto, which receives an excellent performance from the American pianist Stephen Prutsman. He has both technical command and sensitivity at his disposal, features which Barber placed as equally significant in this and other large-scale compositions.

Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance is beautifully played here, with some fine string playing in particular, and very well balanced by the conductor. As a result the Dance makes a stronger impression still, when the full and accurate recorded sound comes into its own. The disc will repay its modest outlay for this performance alone."

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