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David DIAMOND (b.1915)
Psalm, for orchestra (1936)
Kaddish for Cello and Orchestra* (1987)
Symphony No. 3 (1945)
Janos Starker (cello)*
Seattle Symphony Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz
Recorded at the Seattle Center Opera House, Seattle, WA, USA on September 11 & 12, 1990 (Psalm and Symphony No.3 and January 6, 1991 (Kaddish) DDD
NAXOS 8.559155 [50:33]


Naxos are to be heartily congratulated for re-releasing these three works by David Diamond on their successful American Classics series which were originally available on Delos DE 3101 to considerable critical acclaim. The Symphonic Suite: Romeo & Juliet (1947) which was contained on the Delos release is not included here.

David Diamond was born in 1915 and together with his elder contemporary Elliott Carter is one of the two remaining giants among American composers who came to prominence between the two World Wars. The composer of eleven symphonies, Diamond has also composed most notably a Sinfonietta, the Ballet Tom, the Elegy in memory of Ravel for brass, harp and percussion, Rounds for string orchestra, a Piano Concerto, 3 Violin Concertos, a Cello Concerto, the Symphonic Suite Romeo and Juliet, the Psalm for Orchestra and much high-quality vocal music.

Like Carter, Diamond studied with the eminent Nadia Boulanger in Paris. A close and productive friendship developed with Leonard Bernstein who premiered many of his works. Diamond has been the recipient of several prestigious honours, arguably the most notable of which has been the special citation he received from the New York Music Circle for his most celebrated work Rounds, for string orchestra (1944).

Based on Stravinsky's appraisal Diamond made a few revisions the Psalm, for orchestra (1936) and won the 1937 Juilliard Publication Award. Psalm was among the compositions which undoubtedly influenced his receipt of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1938.

After the San Francisco premiere of Psalm under Pierre Monteux, influential critic Alfred Frankenstein wrote, "On first hearing, the outstanding qualities of this work seem to be its fine, granitic seriousness, its significant compression of a large idea into a small space, and its spare, telling use of the large orchestra." Maestro Schwarz directs a sensitive and expressive performance of the Psalm which is a short and peaceful score that doesn't have to bellow to make its intensity felt.

Composed in 1987 for the soloist Yo-yo Ma, Diamondís Kaddish for Cello and Orchestra is a welcome addition to the Jewish inspired rhapsodies for cello and orchestra, most notably headed by Bloch's Schelomo and Bruch's Kol Nidrei. The eminent Hungarian born virtuoso cellist Janos Starker provides a splendid performance of high intensity and considerable lyrical feeling.

Composed in 1945 Diamondís Symphony No. 3 had to wait another five years for its première. Diamond had bumped into distinguished conductor Charles Munch in Paris, explained the difficulties that he was experiencing in getting the symphony performed and showed him the score. Munch stated, "But this is ridiculous. We must have it performed. I will do it next season." Maestro Munch lived up to his promise and gave the first performance of the work with his Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Gerard Schwarz and his Seattle Symphony Orchestra provide a most eminently convincing interpretation of the work. Ardently performed with considerable characterisation and appropriate impetus and vigour in the opening movement Allegro and the third movement Scherzo.

This Naxos disc at super budget price will undoubtedly win Diamond many new admirers.

Michael Cookson

see also review by Rob Barnett

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