Agnus Dei

tune from Barber's String Quartet, 1936; arranged 1967 for choir
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

If Barber is to be remembered for anything, it will be his Adagio for strings. Surprised, even himself, by its popularity, he had mixed feelings about the various arrangements made from its original string quartet version. His own adaptation for chorus in 1967 set it—quite appropriately—to the words of the Agnus Dei. Other than in its most famous version for string orchestra, arrangements exist for clarinet choir (by Lucien Caillet) and for organ (by William Strickland, head of the Army Music School at Fort Myer).

In a BBC broadcast in 1982, an admiring American voice described Barber’s Adagio as coming ‘straight from the heart, to use the old-fashioned term. The sense of continuity, the steadiness of the flow, the satisfaction of the arch that it creates from beginning to end. They’re all very gratifying, satisfying and it makes you believe in the sincerity which he [Barber] obviously put into it.’

Flattering words … from none other than Aaron Copland.

from notes by Ken Walton 2000


Bernstein: Chichester Psalms; Copland: In the beginning; Barber: Agnus Dei
Copland & Barber: In the beginning & other choral works
CKD117Download only


Track 4 on CDA66219 [9'50]
Track 9 on CKD117 [7'27] Download only

Track-specific metadata

Click track numbers above to select