David Diamond long
outlived his contemporaries. He is of
that group of American composers who
came to eminence in the 1940s. This
group includes Harris, Piston, Schuman
and Copland with Sessions, Hanson, Creston
and Mennin clustered just outside the
Diamond was born in
Rochester, New York. He studied with
Bernard Rogers (time for a Rogers revival
please!), Sessions and Boulanger. He
is much associated with the Juilliard
School which he joined in 1973. His
catalogue runs to eleven symphonies,
eleven string quartets, three violin
concertos and more than one hundred
songs. His Fourth Symphony must have
one of the most sheerly beautiful shimmeringly
mobile first five minutes of any 20th
century symphony; though Rorem runs
him close. I owe it to a BBC Radio 3
series in 1980 that I heard the Bernstein/NYPO
recording of Diamond 4 in all its glistening
impressionistic glory; you can hear
it on a Sony/CBS CD still in the catalogue.
It comes as no surprise that Diamond
also wrote a Ravel Elegy.
Diamond had a selection
of his symphonies recorded by the Seattle
Orchestra and Gerard Schwarz in the
1990s on Delos. Naxos have reissued
these and will perhaps fill the gaps.
Outside the adopted Naxos series there
has been plenty of other activity including
the recent set of songs on Albany -
the momentous Albany and Steve Honigberg-Potomac
series of Diamond's string quartets
and a Diamond volume in the Naxos Milken
There's a real danger
that you might overlook this 1999 Diamond
chamber music contribution from Centaur.
The 1951 Piano Trio
was written in his home town of
Rochester. It is in four movements and
was premiered in San Francisco by the
Alma Trio in 1953. It is an awkward,
angry and at times dissonant work in
the manner of late Bartók. This
is relieved by lyrical sustenance from
the string instruments. The emotionally
icy Bergian expanses of the adagio give
way to the cold playfulness of the Scherzo.
In the finale we return to the brutality
and exhaustion of the first with cold
Scarlatti-style dancing material for
The Piano Quartet
dates from the years when Diamond
was studying in France with Boulanger.
Written in Fontainebleau it was premiered
by the Belgian Piano Quartet. The composer
made revisions to it in 1967. It is
in six movements. After a pondering
Intrada comes an exhilarating
fury of an allegro brioso and
the first of two Ritornellos.
Here inventive use is made of the stereo
spread to divide violin and viola. A
wild mezzo-forte dance comes next with
smiling sparks flying in all directions.
The second Ritornello is gangly
and angular in the piano part with contrasting
meditative material for the strings.
This rises towards a paean of the type
Panufnik achieves in his string writing.
The finale is just as engaging as that
confiding allegro brioso with
a peg-legged dash to the proceedings
and a deeply earnest climax nicely accentuated
by the piano's valedictory curse.
The String Trio
is dedicated to members of the Coolidge
Quartet and was first performed in Washington
DC by the dedicatees in 1938. It was
not until 1996 that it had a New York
premiere at the hands of the Notre Dame
Trio. The work is in three movements.
The outer ones have the smiling carefree
delight in speed that we know from Tippett's
string writing at exactly the same time.
Spun in among this rich material we
catch glimpses of similar writing in
Bartók and Moeran where the wind
stirs the dust just as much as the stamping
of dancing feet. The tripartite middle
movement is so inward that it might
almost be devotional.
The liner-notes give
us the essentials. The performances
seem ideal. The recording quality is
close-up and vivaciously realistic.