This is a wonderful collection of solo piano pieces composed by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) and performed by virtuoso pianist John Browning. As my introduction to the works of Samuel Barber, my general take on the collection is that John Browning does an excellent job conveying the moods of Barber's music on this compilation, which are alternately meditative and unsettled.
I have to say that my favorite composition is the lengthy Sonata for Piano Op. 26 (1949), which is subtly atonal and nods in the direction of a 12-tone composition (as developed by Schoenberg). Composed in 1977 (after a years labor) Ballade Op. 46 was his last piece for solo piano and is quite reflective. The remaining pieces exhibit virtuosic flourishes and are in large part, tonal. As an aside, I could swear that parts of Excursion (1942-1944) (particularly Un poco allegro) turned up some 30 years later in the music of the progressive rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer (maybe Karn Evil 9?).
Reading through the detailed liner notes, it was clear that as a neo-romanticist surrounded by pioneers in serialism and electronic music, Barber did have a rough go of it. He was creating tonal music at a time in the mid-20th century when atonality and aleatoric music were considered the new frontiers in modern classical. Although neo-romanticism did eventually catch on, Barber was deeply affected by the rejection of his music by critics/peers and especially by the poor reception of his opera entitled Antony and Cleopatra (1966). As Barber indicated, this opera contained some of his finest work.
The sound quality of this MusicMasters Classics release is OK.
All in all, I have to say that this was a fantastic listening experience and a great introduction to the solo piano music of Samuel Barber. I have noticed from reading the reviews here at AMAZON that this is not truly a complete collection in that a few solo piano pieces have been omitted. Well, I enjoyed this collection so much that I have been inspired to seek out his other compositions.