Karina Gauvin and Marin Alsop take a nostalgic view of Knoxville: Summer of 1915. Theirs is an adult's bittersweet reminiscence rather than a child's innocent view. The outer sections sway slowly, the phrases longingly caressed as if soprano and orchestra were loath to let them go.
Gauvin sings smoothly, generally emphasising song over text, though she's alive to James Agee's fragrant imagery, and varies the colour of her voice appropriately. With deeply expressive playing from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the result is ravishing; this is one of the finest versions of Knoxville to date.
Alsop's tautly argued Second Essay is equally satisfying. She resists the temptation to stretch the tempo at climactic moments, creating a strong sense of momentum; you're swept along by the music's powerful current.
Knoxville and the Essays pack a nice sonic punch. If only Thomas Trotter's brilliant execution of the solo organ part in the Toccata Festiva were recorded with greater presence than the acoustic of Paisley Abbey allows. The Toccata may not be top-drawer Barber, but it has its moments. Nevertheless, Alsop's ear-opening Barber series reaches a new high-point with this instalment. Strongly recommended. The Gramphone Classical Music Guide
Ravishing. … One of the finest versions of Knoxville to date. … Alsop’s ear-opening Barber series reaches a new high-point with this instalment. Strongly recommended. Gramophone
Alsop's reading [of Knoxville] brings out the contrasts between the different sections more sharply than usual...superbly played and recorded. The Penguin Guide