(Re)View: David Diamond (1915–2005)

(Re)View: David Diamond (1915–2005)
David Diamond described his own FOURTH SYMPHONY as "my smallest large symphony." A compact three-movement 16-plus minute-work, its arc is tightly constructed, from the sonata form of the first through the chorale-like second to the rondo closing of the third via a rambunctious scherzo. One critic cheerfully declared that it "did nothing to dispel a belief to which I am devotedly attached...that eternity is a happy, joyous and occasionally noisy place not to seriously concerned with dialectic mumbo-jumbo." On January 23, 1945, the Boston Symphony Orchestra premiered the FOURTH SYMPHONY under the baton of the then 29-year-old assistant conductor, Leonard Bernstein, who stepped in for an ailing Koussevitzky, whose self-named foundation commissioned the piece. Bernstein also went on to lead the successful New York premiere and championed Diamond’s work, calling him a "vital branch in the stream of American music" and tempted Diamond back from Italy to conduct the New York Philharmonic for his 50th birthday in 1965. Diamond remained in the US (until his death in Rochester, NY, in June), teaching first at the Manhattan School of Music then at Juilliard — and brought to his students the legacy of his own legendary teachers, Roger Sessions and Nadia Boulanger. Diamond’s fans crossed generations of conductors from Monteux to Mitropoulos and most recently included Gerard Schwarz, who not only commissioned KADDISH in 1989 for cello and orchestra with Yo-Yo Ma and the Seattle Symphony but recorded an impressive number of works, which are now on the Naxos label.

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