One more Great American Symphony
'It's very simple: we're honest composers. We've composed music that we find beautiful, that we have loved. You have to write music that will be loved. Now if that's a sentimental concept of what being a composer is, then I'm very sorry. I live in my time, I'm very aware of technology and computers, but I don't think they have anything to do with the overall big humane values. What's the point of composers writing only for each other?''
One of the last survivors of the "Greatest Generation" of American classical composers, the generation also of Thomson, Copland, Barber, Schuman and Bernstein, David Diamond (1915- 2005, quoted above in a 1990 New York Times profile) saw his music fall out of fashion in the middle of his career, then lived long enough to enjoy a major comeback. A native of Rochester, New York, Diamond trained in composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music, at Eastman, and under Roger Sessions at New York's New School. The finishing touches on his craft and style were applied, however, during this three late-30s trips to Paris, where he attended the classes of famed pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, and earned the encouragement of such great composers as Maurice Ravel, Albert Roussel and Igor Stravinsky.
Diamond's artistic high point probably came in the 1940s, when he produced his most enduring works while, ironically, living in financial hardship only partially alleviated by grants and commissions. As more dissonant and experimental music came into fasion in the fifties, Diamond moved to Europe, settling in Florence. Following his return to the U.S. in 1965, Diamond's music and career both underwent a revival, slowly at first, eventually resulting in a torrent of recordings and awards — major new works, too, in a somewhat denser, more chromatic style than before, and culminating in his valedictory Symphony No. 11 of 1991.
Indeed the symphony had by then been Diamond's central genre for fifty years . Spare and direct, impeccable in craft, though with an occasional homespun quality, and suffused with the composer's natural lyricism, Diamond's symphonies are of a piece with the works in the genre by his contemporaries, but speak with a consistent, unique voice. They (or at least those I've heard!) range from the pithy neo-classicism of the First and Fourth, to the haunting Third, with its slow, elegiac conclusion, to the grand epic of the cycle, the Symphony No. 2 of 1942-43. With its two broad slow movements, starting with a "Adagio funebre" (funereal adagio), Diamond's Second stands proudly alongside the finest symphonies by Harris, Schuman, Hanson and Copland, and will fill most of our 1:00 hour Monday afternoon on WFCR.