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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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David DIAMOND (b.1915)
Suite from the ballet TOM (1935) [23.11]
This Sacred Ground (1963) [15.30]
Symphony No. 8 (1960) [30.13]
Erich Parce (baritone)
Seattle Girls' Choir; Northwest Boychoir; Seattle Symphony Chorale
Seattle Symphony Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz.
Rec, Seattle Center Opera House, 13 Feb 1994 (Sacred); 10 June 1992 (TOM); 24-26 May 1993 (8). DDD
Recorded in association with National Endowment for the Arts.
First issued by Delos on DE3141 in 1995
NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559156 [68.54]

Diamond, now blessedly an elderly survivor, is of a generation largely fallen to mortalityís scythe. That generation includes Creston, Piston, Schuman, Hanson, Sessions, Harris, Mennin and Barber. Diamondís music favours Schuman, Mennin, Copland somewhat and to a degree Sessions rather than Hanson and Creston.

His music is difficult to bracket. On the one hand he can weave a diaphanously magical web of silky melodic streams as he does breathtakingly at the start of the Fourth Symphony (memorably recorded by Bernstein and the NYPO circa 1958 on Sony Classics). On the other his music can be grippingly motoric with intricate full-power rhythmic actions criss-crossing as can be heard in both the TOM  ballet suite and the Eighth Symphony (premiered by the NYPO and Bernstein in 1960 two years after they recorded the Fourth for the then CBS). TOM is in twelve brief movements. The projected ballet was based on the anti-slavery novel Harriet Beecher Stoweís Uncle Tomís Cabin. The scenario was drawn up by e.e. cummings; George Balanchine provided the choreography. The producer was Lincoln Kerstein who became disenchanted with the project which then came to nothing. Despite Diamondís attempts to involve Massine in Paris there was to be no production. As far as I know it has still not found a stage premiere. The acid-spit and convulsive upheaval aspect of Diamond can be heard in The Dance of the Slavetraders and Human Bloodhounds (tr.6) where the influence of The Rite of Spring is to the fore. On the other hand Diamondís more peaceful strain can be heard in the Prokofiev-like dreamy moonlit Dance of New England and New Orleans.

This Sacred Ground (Lincolnís Gettysburg Address - printed in full in the booklet) represents the public declamatory Diamond and is of the tradition reflected in Coplandís Lincoln Portrait, Roy Harrisís Tenth Symphony and Randall Thompsonís Testament of Freedom. A nation celebrates its high calling and principles hard won and over which blood has been spilt. I am not sure that this is Diamond completely heart-engaged but it is done with craftsmanship and great skill with multiple choirs lending spectacle. Parce finds some episodes a strain but his is a skilled and sincere performance. I see that it was premiered in 1963, dedicated to Josef Krips who asked that Lincolnís famous address be set to music. The premiere was given by Lukas Foss with the Buffalo Philharmonic on 17 November 1963. Its admirable, hand-on-heart, 1940s patriotism (not all that distant from John Irelandís These Things Shall Be) must have rattled anachronistically at the time, teetering on the edge of flag-burning, Vietnam, disillusion, drugs and a deeply alienated youth culture.

The Eighth Symphony carries a dedication to Copland on his sixtieth birthday. The Bernstein premier took place in October 1961. The symphony is in two roughly quarter-hour movements. There is plenty of vigorous and intriguing rhythmic interest with a faint atonal flavouring to the lyrical dimension. The second movement takes the form of a theme and variations topped off with a double fugue linking back thematically to the principal melody of the first movement. In the final movement the Seattle strings limn a long-breathed melody which carries a Bergian chilliness related to but never mistakable for one of William Schumanís powerful adagios. The dreamy raindrop succulence of the movement (8.46) veers towards the drenched adagio succulence of Valentin Silvestrovís Fifth Symphony. At about 12.55 the lulling magisterial atmosphere is broken by rhythmic incursions which sound a scorching counterpart to the cross-cutting counterpoint of the finale of Tippettís Concerto for Double String Orchestra.

These are Delos original recordings from a project (the complete symphonies of Piston, Schuman, Hanson, Mennin, Diamond) whose boundless ambition was not fully achieved when the money ran out. They managed a complete Hanson but the other series were left incomplete - dying mid-step. It is good to see Naxos rescuing these confidently realised recordings and presenting them at an extremely accessible price.

The helpful and accessibly written notes are by Steven Lowe.

Rob Barnett



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