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David DIAMOND (b.1915)
The String Quartets - Volume 3

String Quartet No. 1 (1940) [16.15]
String Quartet No. 5 (1960) [25.44]
String Quartet No. 6 (1962) [22.47]
Potomac String Quartet
rec. St Luke's Church, McLean, Virginia, USA, June, Nov 2002 DDD


Vol. 1 - String Quartets 3, 8 - Albany TROY 504
Vol. 2 - String Quartets 2, 9, 10 - Albany TROY 540
Vol. 3 - String Quartets 1, 5, 6 - Albany TROY 613
Vol. 4 - String Quartets 4, 7 - Albany (2004? - not yet issued)

Steven Honigberg's Potomac Quartet have single-mindedly set out to fulfil the promise of the first Diamond volume issued two years ago. Here is the latest disc presented with satisfying thoroughness and commitment to the highest artistic ideals. The value of this project is heightened by the inclusion of composer interview material. The single movement First Quartet was written at the Yaddo Colony where Diamond was living with the writer Katherin Anne Porter. Also there was the German writer Hermann Broch, the dedicatee. The quartet was inspired by Broch's novel 'The Death of Virgil'. It is densely emotional, stabbingly poignant, affected by Roy Harris's gravity as at 7.13 and singing with a buoyantly lyric voice close to that of Tippett (11.47).

The Fifth Quartet is from twenty years later. It remains densely expressive but the melodic material leans towards Berg. It was premiered by the original Juilliard quartet who, over the years, performed many of the Diamond quartets. The dancing patter of the First Quartet is there in the finale but there is also something of scathing despair as well as nightmare. A number of moments recall Rawsthorne.

After the three movements of the Fifth comes the Gravement and Adagio of the Sixth Quartet. This work is more emotive and expressive. I am not at all sure that the emotional cargo of the Fifth quite carries the conviction I have heard in the other Diamond quartets. The Sixth while remaining steadfastly Bergian is more convincing. The construction of the finale is extremely impressive. The practice of the composer's art is clearly apparent and this sign-off contrasts with the perfunctory gesture that ends the First Quartet. It is based on a theme by its dedicatee Darius Milhaud and was presented to the French composer on his seventieth birthday. This disc is enhanced by photographs from the Diamond family archives. Particularly striking are the informal portraits of Diamond with Bernstein and Koussevitsky. Diamond greatly admires Bernstein's Jeremiah symphony premiered in Pittsburgh with Jenny Tourel as the soloist. Bernstein and Tourel attended the 1946 premiere of the Fifth Quartet with Diamond.

After this only one more disc to go and the four volume project will be fulfilled. As I have said before I hope that the Potomac will then move to the Schuman quartets which offer similar and even greater rewards.

Freshly exciting realisations by the dedicated Potomac quartet. This is a disc indispensable to followers of the string quartet's progress and of Diamond's life journey. This is well up to the exalted standards set by volumes 1 and 2. If you have those it is my guess that you will have to have this as well.

Rob Barnett


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