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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    


 

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David DIAMOND (1915-2005)
A Diamond Jubilee

Even though the World Keep Changing (1946) [2:24]
As Life What IS So Sweet? (1941) [1:40]
Anniversary in a Country Cemetery (1942) [1:40]
Souvent j’ai dit à mon mari (1943) [0:53]
Sister Jane (1943) [0:53]
My Little Mother (1943) [1:45]
I have Longed To Move Away (1944) [2:27]
Music, when soft voices die (1944) [0:53]
Somewhere (1946) [3:26]
Epitaph (1946) [1:41]
My Spirit Will Not Haunt the Mound (1946) [1:58]
This World Is Not My Home (1946) [1:06]
The Shepherd Boy Sings in the Valley of Humiliation (1946) [1:50]
Brigid’s Song (1947) [1:04]
Be Music, Night (1948) [2:15]
Chatterton (1950) [3:15]
Love is More (1950) [2:27]
My Papa’s Waltz (1964) [1:08]
Homage to Paul Klee (19730 [2:09]
I Am Rose (1973) [0:55]
Don’t Cry  (1983) [0:51]
Hebrew Melodies (1968):
My Soul is Dark [3:45]
If That High World [4:20]
Saul [7:41]
All is Vanity [5:18]
Helene Williams (soprano), Leonard Lehrman (piano)
No recording details given. 1994? DDD
ALBANY TROY817 [56:50]

Diamond wrote almost one hundred songs; this is the first CD to be devoted entirely to a selection from this output. Albany give no exact details as to when these performances were recorded, though the first paragraph of the booklet contains the following information: “Originally planned for release on his 80th birthday, the recording was finally edited and remastered in time for release during his 90th year ... He did get to hear it ... just weeks before he died, and told the performers on the phone: ‘I liked it very much’”. David Diamond was born on 9 July 1915 (and died on 13 June 2005), so his eightieth birthday was in 1995. The performers’ web site suggests a date of 1994 for the recording.
 
Many of the songs recorded on this CD belong to the 1940s. In style they reflect something of Diamond’s French influences – like so many American composers of his generation he studied with Nadia Boulanger; Diamond met Ravel in Paris in 1928, and became a firm friend of the Frenchman; his profound admiration of Ravel was well reflected in Diamond’s orchestral Elegy in Memory of Maurice Ravel (1938). Only one of the songs recorded here has a French text – though the words were actually written by the New Zealander Katharine Mansfield – and this song. ‘Souvent j’ai dit à mon mari’, carries a dedication to “Darius, Madeleine & Daniel Milhaud”, which suggests another of Diamond’s affinities, both personal and musical. In other songs, Diamond’s choice of texts is thoroughly eclectic including an anonymous seventeenth-century poem, and texts by, amongst others, Dylan Thomas, Shelley, Hardy, Melville, e e cummings, Theodore Roethke and Gertrude Stein. All the texts are provided – with just two exceptions for which permission to reprint could not be obtained. There’s wit and humour in songs such as ‘Sister Jane’ and ‘Homage to Paul Klee’; a troubling bleakness in ‘My Spirit Will not Haunt the Mound’ and a charming pseudo Celtic-folk idiom in ‘Brigid’s Song’ (with words by James Joyce). There is barely a dud amongst these songs – though I was disappointed by Diamond’s response to Shelley’s beautiful lyric ‘Music, when soft voices die’. This last setting, by the way, is dedicated to Alec Wilder. Elsewhere, ‘My little Mother’ - text by Katharine Mansfield again - is dedicated to that fine song-writer Theodore Chanler;  is there a CD of his songs out there anywhere? All of these songs have grace, intelligence and charm, many have long, attractive melodic lines, and all are very obviously the work of a composer with a real understanding of poetry.
 
The CD closes with what is surely one of Diamond’s greatest achievements as a composer of songs – his setting of four of the lyrics by Byron which were gathered under the title of ‘Hebrew Melodies’. Written in 1968 – and dedicated to Leonard Bernstein on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday – there is less emphasis here on Gallic grace and a greater forcefulness and sharpness of manner, in an idiom which draws on a different kind of modernism. Tonality is much looser, there are some jagged figurations in the piano writing, some demanding leaps in the vocal lines, now far more fragmentary. This is a marvellous song-cycle, running over twenty minutes. Anyone who doesn’t know it is urged to take the opportunity to make its acquaintance. Now we need a good recording of Diamond’s 1964 cycle We Two (on Shakespearean texts).
 
Williams and Lehrman are an experienced duo. Lehrman will be known to many as an authority – the authority – on Marc Blitzstein. Lehrman also studied with Boulanger ... as well as with Bernstein. An experienced professional – composer, conductor, operatic coach, academic and pianist – he is a fine and sympathetic accompanist. Williams doesn’t, for my tastes, have the most naturally beautiful of voices and there are moments when she struggles, but she brings to the performance of these songs real musical intelligence, a natural performer’s instinct and a marvellous clarity of diction. One might imagine better performances of some of these songs, but that shouldn’t detract from one’s pleasure in, and admiration of, what we are here offered. I am grateful to both performers who, the booklet notes tell us, were extensively coached by the composer in preparing their performances.

Glyn Pursglove

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message received
Helene (Williams Spierman Lehrman) and especially I want to thank you for your thoughtful review of our David Diamond CD. We thought you, and perhaps your readers, would like to know that, while we began work on these songs, choosing and then coaching them with David Diamond, in 1994, the actual recording was made in Roslyn, N.Y., Jan. 16-18, 1995 by Norman Greenspan. The remastering was done by Da-Hong Seetou in 2005. This information was in our liner notes, but was inadvertently omitted during the many revisions of those notes underwent. We discovered the error just a little too late--everything had already gone to press, though we were promised that it would appear in a second printing, if there is a second printing.

Thank you again.
Sincerely,
Leonard J. Lehrman

 

 

 



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