In 1944, while the Second World War ground on in Europe and Asia, the American composer David Diamond received a commission from Dimitri Mitropoulos, who was then the conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony.
“Write me a happy work,” asked Mitropolous. “These are distressing times, most of the difficult music I play is distressing. Make me happy.”
The resulting work was entitled “Rounds for String Orchestra.” To some, it sounded as if Diamond had turned to traditional American folk music, but, as Diamond 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.”
Diamond’s “Rounds” received its premiere performance by Mitropolous and the Minneapolis Symphony on today’s date in 1944. 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)RoundsLos Angeles Chamber Orchestra; Gerard Schwarz, cond.Nonesuch 79002