The "Canzonetta" for oboe and strings is the final work in Barber's long and illustrious career. It received its world premiere at New York's Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center with Zubin Mehta conducting the New York Philharmonic; Harold Gomberg, soloist on December 17, 1981. The work was conceived as the second movement of a planned and subsequently unfinished oboe concerto, which was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic. The music publisher G. Schirmer asked composer Charles Turner, one of the few students Barber ever accepted, to provide an orchestration, based on Barber's notes. It is that orchestration that was premiered and now heard on this premiere recording.
Benjamin Britten's "Les Illuminations" for soprano and string orchestra, Op.18, was composed in 1939 to a many facedted and hard-to-understand text by the symbolist Arthur Rimbaud. The title might best be understood as "Visions" or "the light of truth"; the varied musical style lends great freedom to the words. It is also possible to enjoy the musical interpretation completely without the text-as the poet himself says at the beginning, he alone holds the key to it all!