Way back when this recording was first issued in 1960, it was a boon to fans of the neo-Romantic music of Samuel Barber. By that time, Barber's reputation had already started to fade and most of the works here had no previous recorded performances. Amazingly, many of them remained unchallenged until the rise of digital recordings in the '80s. Even more amazingly, most of them are still as good if not better than subsequent recordings by the likes of David Zinman or Neeme Järvi. Vladimir Golschmann was an ardent advocate for Barber's music and his interpretations here of everything from the charming "Serenade for string orchestra" through the passionate "Music for a Scene from Shelley" and the dramatic "Second Essay for Orchestra" to the ironic chamber opera "A Hand of Bridge" are wholly convincing. The Symphony of the Air, the then-current nom de musique of what was once the RCA Symphony, was a tough and powerful ensemble and it willingly gave everything it had to Barber's lushly scored music. The Robert DeCormier Singers' performance of "A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map" is vigorous but sensitive, if a shade histrionic. The solosists of "A Hand of Bridges" -- Patricia Neway, Eunice Alberts, William Lewis, and Philip Maero -- were perhaps not the finest singers of their generation, but their performance here is apt and wonderfully arch. Despite the competition, this 2006 reissue of Golschmann's recording should be heard by anyone who loves Barber's music. Vanguard's dry and distant 1960 stereo sound has been remarkably well restored. It's like listening to the LP without the scratches and surface noise.
Second Essay, for orchestra, Op. 17
Music for a Scene from Shelley, for orchestra, Op. 7
A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map, for male chorus & 3 tympani, Op. 15
A Hand of Bridge, chamber opera, Op. 35
Serenade, for string quartet or string orchestra, Op. 1