Led by American conductor Marin Alsop, Naxos's critically acclaimed Barber set was released in 2010 to honor the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth.
"The two symphonies are played on Naxos with passionate commitment and deep lyrical feeling…. The account of the complete Second Symphony will surely confirm the reputation of a wartime work which the composer partly withdrew in despondency after its neglect. The First Essay for Orchestra also generates a powerful atmosphere when played with such depth of feeling. With spectacular recording, this exciting collection is very strongly recommended."—Penguin Guide
"Alsop is especially good in the First Symphony, where her wisely chosen tempos and her restraint in the opening movement allow the music to build in a natural, unforced manner. Her careful articulation of Barber's long melodic lines makes the slow sections in both symphonies quite riveting. The orchestra plays beautifully—the solo oboe in the Andante tranquillo of the First Symphony is wonderful."—Fanfare
"Alsop is an ideal choice for surveying these quintessentially American pieces. She clearly has a deeply rooted affinity for Barber's music, with an assured and sensitive grasp of the breadth of its post-Romantic warmth as well as its clarity, drama, and tenderness. In the RSNO, Alsop has a first-rate ensemble, disciplined and responsive, with the capacity for a full, voluptuous tone and crisp precision, and she draws from them performances of consistently high standards."—All Music Guide