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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



David DIAMOND (b.1915)
The String Quartets - Volume 1

Concerto for String Quartet (1936) [17.32]
String Quartet No. 3 (1946) [25.51]
String Quartet No. 7 (1964) [17.54]
Potomac String Quartet
rec. St Luke's Church, McLean, Virginia, USA, Oct 2000, Mar 2001
ALBANY RECORDS TROY 504 [60.31]


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David Diamond, a little like Peter Mennin and Roger Sessions, 'basks' in peripheral light. His case was much aided by the CBS (latterly Sony) recording of his Fourth Symphony the opening of which is a miracle of impressionistic weaving, beautifully put across by Bernstein and the NYPO.

This disc is the first chapter in a four part series in which the Washington DC-based Potomac Quartet are to record all the string quartets by David Diamond. Further details from Steve Honigberg are appended at the end of this review.

The Concerto is dedicated to Roussel to whom the composer owed much during his Parisian years and later. Roussel introduced him to Charles Munch. The four movements of the Concerto rotate around a stylistic axis which has much to do with Tippett (presumably mere coincidence), with Bach and with Shostakovich. The Tippett I have in mind is the pointed, almost brash, energy and poetry that plays like a flame over the Concerto for Double String Orchestra.

A decade later the Third Quartet is dedicated to the memory of Allela Cornell 'in tender love and devotion 1914-1946). Diamond was living with Cornell (who was a painter) at the time that she committed suicide by drinking half a bottle of hydrochloric acid. Her death was protracted. Diamond (in the interview which forms the booklet note) lays claim to loving conversation. The quartet is an ideal medium for the suggestion of that activity. Taking the lithe and melodious allegro vivo we can hear a barnstormer of a conversation among four vivacious, vital and divergent voices. The vivacity spills over into the allegretto though it proceeds at a less headlong clip. Again the parallels can be made with Tippett or is it Tippett with Diamond? The concluding Adagio is 11.35, 5 minutes longer than the next longest movement. This powerful arching and stretching elegy is redolent of Josef Suk's St Wenceslas Chorale.

Almost twenty years later came the Eighth Quartet which is made of sterner stuff: dour, fugal, subtly dissonant, harsh, barbed possessed of a restlessness familiar from many twentieth century works.

The conversation between the composer and Alex Jeschke is printed in English only. The performances and the recording do not disappoint in any way.

I am grateful to Steve Honigberg, the cellist of the Potomac, and the guiding light and vigour behind the three Holocaust-centred 'Darkness and Light' discs, for sending me a review copy of the present disc.

Rob Barnett


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