Barber's Adagio is another piece I do not particularly like; I acknowledge it in the same way I would acknowledge an early work by any composer who is destined for greater things: Debussy's "Clair de lune" for example. Samuel Barber was working his way through various influences, including that of Sibelius, at the time he wrote the Adagio in 1936 (as part of a string quartet originally). The piece was much used as an emblem of America's grief in the wake of 9/11; a Canadian friend of mine, who does not appreciate Barber's later music at all, told me that she found it the most moving piece of music ever written.
The difference I see between that work and "Lento" is one of two composers moving in opposite directions: Barber in the direction of a modernism that, as in the case of Elliott Carter though obviously less radically so, was more authentically reflective of its time than the late romantic aesthetic he had shared with one or two other American composers, eg Paul Creston, Howard Hanson.
I take on the chin Bryn's admonishment of my "ire" with regards to the Skempton piece; some few weeks ago we shared wistful reminiscences on the Scratch Orchestra and "alternative" London in the late 60s on this board; I'm sure we share similar views on many aspects of politics today, but in matters where I suspect aesthetics loyalties outlive their political sources in the case of the "Cardew School", and what became of it, it's like we're speaking in different languages. All this will puzzle those without the backgrounds; but what I want to say boils down to: whenever I hear what apparently purports to be a serious contemporary piece of music in an idiom more appropriate to 1750 than 1990, what is the point of adopting wholesale (sic) the musical language of pop music (with or without beats), when pop music is just everywhere and signifies the reduction of everything to what some people making huge profits deem the masses capable of absorbing? It's the mirror image thing of what happened to composers in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s and in Nazi Germany - the extinguishment that starts in the creative imagination and ends in artistic exile.