In the Scandinavian states Nordic composers have benefited
from thorough recording programmes - often state-aided. Perhaps they
have not been as comprehensive or as frequent as first impressions might
suggest but at heart their recording industries seem motivated by an
admirably idealistic momentum and financial commitment that have produced
projects many of us in the rest of the world have looked on with envy.
Taking but two examples: the Rosenberg quartets have been recorded complete
by Caprice and the Holmboes by Dacapo. Albany are now moving in the
same direction for Diamond but these have been financed by the Copland
Fund. The mission has been that of Steven Honigberg.
This disc is the second instalment in a four part set
in which the Washington DC-based Potomac Quartet are to record all the
string quartets by David Diamond. The first volume has already been
Diamond's Second Quartet was premiered in Buffalo
in 1961 by the Kroll Quartet. It is a work of sustained, streaming and
long-breathed lines. The vigorous rhythmic life which could easily have
been Stravinskian, given the vintage, is in fact very close to Tippett.
Here the quartet is played with every ounce of the considerable energy
and concentration at the Potomac's bidding. You need to think in terms
of the sometimes torrential, sometimes contemplative keening and singing
of Tippett's Concerto for Double String Orchestra and the Corelli
Fantasia but without the dissonance of the latter. It is dedicated
to Edward Stringham, an early and sympathetically supportive friend
on the staff of ‘The New Yorker’.
Then come two much later quartets from the mid-1960s
each being a minute or so over a quarter of an hour's duration. The
single movement Ninth is dedicated to Roger Sessions ‘for his
70th birthday’. A virile Bergian continuum this piece ultimately
sinks reflectively back into the silence from which it emerged rather
than raving to a belligerent or heroic close. The three movement Tenth
was written for the Lywen Quartet (named after Werner Lywen, leader
of Bernstein's City Center Orchestra). It is Diamond's last quartet.
These two late quartets are now less Tippett and more Frankel although
in the poised calm of parts of the Lento of the Tenth Diamond
reaches back to the tonal cradling from which his music first emerged.
The booklet notes take the same relaxed conversational
form followed in volume one. The composer and the skilled interviewer
Alex Jeschke discuss the music. The notes and conversations are printed
in English only.
The Aaron Copland Fund for Music supported this series
financially. Their benevolence has been amply rewarded. Perhaps they
might now consider a cycle of Diamond symphonies, the much needed reissue
of Schuman's Viola Concerto on Old English Rounds (originally
on CBS) or better still the first digital outing for Howard Hanson's
opera Merry Mount.
We also need complete cycles of the string quartets
by William Schuman. I hope that the Potomac will move to this project
when they have completed the Diamond sequence.
I am grateful once again to Steve Honigberg, the cellist
of the Potomac for sending me a review copy of the present disc.
The scorchingly committed performances and recording
of these monuments of twentieth century music-making are well up to
the exalted standards set by volume one.