Composers Datebook®

Diamond's "Rounds"

David Diamond (1915-2005) — Rounds (Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra; Gerard Schwarz, cond.) Nonesuch 79002


Composer's Datebook - November 24, 2021

2:00


November 24, 2021

Synopsis

In 1944, while the Second World War ground on in Europe and Asia, David Diamond’s “Rounds for String Orchestra” received its premiere performance by the Minneapolis Symphony and its then conductor, Dimitri Mitropoulos. 

“Write me a happy work,” Mitropoulos had asked Diamond. “These are distressing times, most of the difficult music I play is distressing. Make me happy.”

To some in 1944, “Rounds” sounded as if Diamond had turned to traditional American folk music, but, as the composer put it, “the tunes are original. They sound like folk tunes, but they are really the essence of a style that must have been absorbed by osmosis.”

Even the stodgy conservative music critic of the St. Paul Pioneer Press expressed her grudging admiration: “it reveals a good deal of talent and resourcefulness” was her verdict. Reviewing a subsequent Boston Symphony performance under Koussevitzky, New York Times critic Olin Downes was much more enthusiastic. He wrote: “It is admirably fashioned, joyous and vernal. There is laughter in the music.”

“Rounds” has gone on to become one of Diamond’s most frequently performed works. Perhaps joy and laughter in music remains as rare and precious a commodity now as it was back in those distressed days of 1944.

Music Played in Today's Program

David Diamond (1915-2005) — Rounds (Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra; Gerard Schwarz, cond.) Nonesuch 79002

On This Day

Births

  • 1897 - American jazz pianist and composer Willie ("The Lion") Smith, in Goshen, N.Y.;

  • 1911 - Finnish composer Erik Bergman, in Uusikaarlepyy;

  • 1927 - American composer Emma Lou Diemer, in Kansas City, Missouri;

  • 1934 - Russian composer Alfred Schnittke, in Engels, near Saratov;

  • 1953 - American composer, conductor and cellist Tod Machover, in New York City;

  • 1960 - American composer and double-bass virtuoso, Edgar Meyer;

Premieres

  • 1726 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 52 ("Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht") performed on the 23rd Sunday after Trinity as part of Bach's third annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1725/27);

  • 1839 - Berlioz: dramatic symphony, "Romeo and Juliet," at the Paris Conservatory;

  • 1874 - Dvorák: opera "King and Collier," in Prague;

  • 1876 - Tchaikovsky: opera “Vakula the Blacksmith,” in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Dec. 6);

  • 1886 - Brahms: Cello Sonata No. 2 in F, Op. 99, in Vienna;

  • 1888 - Tchaikovsky: symphonic fantasy overture “Hamlet” (after Shakespeare), in Moscow (see Julian date: Nov. 12);

  • 1932 - Hilding Rosenberg: opera "Voyage to America," in Stockholm;

  • 1944 - David Diamond: "Rounds" for string orchestra, by the Minneapolis Symphony, Dimtri Mitropoulos conducting;

  • 1945 - Elie Siegmeister: "Western Suite," by the NBC Symphony, Arturo Toscanini conducting;

  • 1949 - Carl Ruggles: "Organum" for large orchestra, by the New York Philharmonic, Leopold Stokowski conducting;

  • 1984 - Christopher Rouse: “The Surma Ritornelli “ for chamber ensemble, by the Syracuse (N.Y.) Society for New Music;

  • 1987 - Michael Torke: “Adjustable Wrench” for chamber ensemble, at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival by the Lontano ensemble, Odaline de la Martinez conducting;

Others

  • 1859 - The legendary American soprano Adelina Patti makes her operatic debut at age 16 in New York City, singing in Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor";

  • 1963 - Leonard Bernstein conducts New York Philharmonic in Mahler's Symphony No. 2 as JFK Memorial Concert telecast on CBS-TV;