Samuel Barber was an American composer born in West Chester, Pennsylvania in 1910. He wrote his most recognizable piece of music Adagio for Strings when he was just 27 years old. During his lifetime he went on to win two Pulitzer Prizes for the musical work he composed during his final three decades. His Adagio for Strings had become one of the most beautiful and well-known works in the modern classical music canon and made its world premiere on November 5, 1938, on the radio.
Italian conductor Toscanini stated that the music was simple and beautiful. This was high praise from a man who had become the one most important figure in classical music in America having emigrated in 1937. For the broadcast from Studio 8-H at Rockefeller Center in New York City Toscanini chose two works by Barber – String Quartet No. 1, Opus 11 and Adagio for Strings.
In years to come, Adagio for Strings would be played at the state funerals of both Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. It has now become one of the most downloaded pieces of digital classical music and has been voted the world’s saddest piece of music by those who listen to BBC. It has also made it to Hollywood and was used in the soundtrack of the movie “Platoon” in 1986 and in the final scene of the movie “The Elephant Man”.