Fresh, devoted performances
of music fully worthy of continued attention
would be a fair reaction to this disc.
The Seattle Symphony
play David Diamond’s music as if it
is in their very bones, Schwarz conducts
as if his life depends on it, the recording
is superb (fairly bright and up-front,
as befits much of this music) and the
music itself fully repays repeated listening.
Psalm is easily
the earliest work on the disc, dating
from 1936. Calm and devotional, it was
inspired by a visit to the Père
Lachaise Cemetery in Paris (wherein
lay Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt).
Its premiere was under the baton of
Howard Hanson. The opening is almost
chant-like, although it soon becomes
jollier (around 2’50). The livelier
later passages include an actively scalic
piano that adds a characteristic slant
to proceedings. Psalm only lasts
just under nine minutes, yet it inhabits
a fair few different worlds in that
time. Unsettled undercurrents lend force
to the powerful, punchy close.
Yes, it really is the
Janos Starker playing the solo part
in Kaddish (a traditional Hebrew
prayer). Starker is superbly ruminative
- one is continually aware of the presence
of a master. He is superbly expressive
and intense. Diamond lends an affecting
simplicity to some of the counterpoint
(I think explicitly of the oboe and
cello passage around eight minutes).
Towards the end, the piece becomes hushed,
almost like a held breath. Haunting.
This is the only available
recording of the Third Symphony, an
unmistakably American work that makes
unashamed use of tonal means and references.
The rhythmically vital first movement
is a shifting, restless nine-minute
segment of excitement, superbly rendered
by the Seattle players. The brightly
edged nature of this music seems entirely
apt for a North American orchestra.
Accents emerge bright and biting.
The homely, very expressive
Andante that follows prompted our own
RB to invoke Vaughan Williams as a reference
point here, a sentiment I can only echo
The movement with the highest fun index
is the Allegro vivo third, a hoe-down
somehow integrated into a symphonic
edifice. It is left to an Adagio assai,
though, to round off the experience.
This is devotional music again (bringing,
in effect, the disc full circle), that
leaves its impression long after the
music has stopped.
For further exploration,
Diamond’s Chaconne for Violin
and Piano of 1948 is worth seeking out:
As to the present release,
it is a wonderful way to spend a fiver.
see also reviews
Barnett and Michael
A July Bargain of the Month