Diamond: Symphony No. 1; Violin Concerto No. 2; The Enormous Room

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WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Violin Concerto No. 2; The Enormous Room
PERFORMER: Ilkka Talvi (violin); Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559157 Reissue (1991-2)
The American composer David Diamond (b1915) has been labelled both ‘neo-classical’ and ‘neo-romantic’. Confusing? It makes sense when you hear the music. The irregular driving rhythms of the neo-classical Stravinsky clearly left their mark, especially in the jagged, muscular opening of the First Symphony. From time to time there’s also a hint of the lyrical sweetness of Diamond’s contemporary Samuel Barber. But by contrast with Barber the lines rarely stand on their own as melodies; instead they’re almost continually woven in ingenious polyphony. Deference to simple tune-plus-accompaniment is rare, and even then fleeting. At best the results are stirring or appealingly sensuous. There are also times – as in the Allegro vivo finale of the Second Violin Concerto – where the flow of ideas and ingenious counterpoint just becomes a little too much. It can be a bit like listening to a brilliant speaker who simply won’t pause for breath – let alone allow anyone else to interrupt. But the sheer exhilaration of the Symphony’s first movement is hard to resist, especially when played with such conviction and panache by the Seattle Symphony under Gerard Schwarz. The original Delos recording sounds as clear and vibrant as ever on this Naxos reissue. Stephen Johnson