Composers Datebook®

Diamond's Fifth . . . finally!

David Diamond (1915-2005 ) Symphony No. 5 Juilliard Orchestra; Christopher Keene, cond. New World 80396

Composer's Datebook - April 28, 2021


April 28, 2021


For the 1965-1966 season of the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein planned a series of concerts titled “Symphonic Forms in the 20th Century,” programming works by Mahler, Sibelius and other great European masters. Bernstein also included American symphonies, including, on today’s date in 1966, the belated premiere performance of David Diamond’s Symphony No. 5.

Diamond began work on his Fifth Symphony in 1947, and its original inspiration was two-fold: Diamond wanted to compose a symphony for Bernstein to premiere and to translate into music the vivid emotions he experienced after attending a performance of Sophocles’ tragedy, Oedipus the King. But Diamond found recreating the Oedipus story harder than he thought. He ended up putting his Fifth aside, and finished and premiered his Sixth, Seventh, and Eight Symphonies before coming to the realization that, “Program symphonies were just not for me.”

Years later, when Bernstein asked him “What ever happened to that symphony you were going to write for me,” Diamond explained all this to Bernstein, who replied, “Well, it’s about time you did something about it—it’s silly to have one symphony that just isn’t there!” And so, Diamond set to work completing a non-programmatic Fifth, dedicated to Leonard Bernstein.

Music Played in Today's Program

David Diamond (1915-2005 ) Symphony No. 5 Juilliard Orchestra; Christopher Keene, cond. New World 80396

On This Day


  • 1892 - American folksinger and folksong collector John Jacob Niles, in Louisville, Ky.;


  • 1865 - Meyerbeer: opera "L'Africaine" (The African Woman), at the Paris Opéra;

  • 1892 - Dvorák: "In Nature's Realm" Overture, Op. 91, in Prague;

  • 1892 - Sibelius: symphonic poem/oratorio "Kullervo" for vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra, in Helsinki, with the composer conducting;

  • 1928 - Cowell: "Sinfonietta," in Boston, Nicholas Slonimsky conducting;

  • 1938 - Diamond: "Elegy in Memory of Maurice Ravel," in Rochester, N.Y.

  • 1948 - Stravinsky: ballet "Orpheus," by the American Society in New York City;

  • 1966 - Douglas Moore: opera "Carrie Nation," in Lawrence, Kan.;

  • 1981 - John Williams: "Pops on the March" by the Boston Pops with the composer conducting.

  • 2005 - Arne Nordheim: “Fonos” for trombone and orchestra, in Bergen, Norway, by the Bergen Philharmonic.