Sunday, May 24, 2009

Diamond, the brilliant American

With apologies for the title, I could not help myself. I find it baffling that the works of American composer David Diamond (1915-2005) are not more widely known. They may not be the most revolutionary - tonality is never far away - but they are excellently crafted and a pleasure to listen to. Allegedly, when Diamond asked Schoenberg about the possibility of study with him, Schoenberg said, "Why do you need to? You're the new Bruckner...I never meant the twelve-tone technique for everybody." This Naxos CD gives a good introduction to this undervalued composer, with two of his eleven symphonies. The second symphony (1942) starts with an adagio funebre that indeed recalls Bruckner without ever getting derivative, and although it meanders at places, it is well worth listening to. The more concise fourth symphony of 1945, perhaps his best known work, shows some influences of Ravel and Martinu, but the finale, with its jazzy rhythms, is as American as they come. The performances by the Seatlle Symphony Orchestra under Gerard Schwarz, taken from the original Delos recordings that I own, are impeccable and the sound is fine. A bargain introduction to one of the greatest American composers.

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