Powerful Music Nicely Played
I've learned Barber's First Symphony from an old recording with Howard Hanson and the Eastman Rochester Orchestra. As I recall it was a bit scrappy but still quite potent. I found the more recent recording by Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony to be better played, but the interpretation was somewhat bland.
This recording by Martin Alsop and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra gives us the best of both worlds, in a finely wrought and blazingly intense performance that captures all of the drama without slighting the more tender moments, like the achingly beautiful oboe solo that open the slow movement.
The Second Symphony is also not slighted in the drama department, as befits this dark and stormy night of a symphony. Add equally winning performances of the Overture and First Essay and you have a real treat for fans of Barber and American music!