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Culture: Cd Reviews: Diamond: Symphony No. 8 etc -Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz (Naxos 8.559156).

Byline: Reviewed by David Hart

For anyone keen to explore new music without spending too much, the American Classics series from Naxos offers an easy introduction to US composers relatively unknown in Britain. One such is David Diamond, student of Nadia Boulanger, friend of Copland and Bernstein, who has been responsible for a whole raft of compositions including 11 symphonies, 11 quartets and five concertos.

Born in 1915 Diamond is now, as the liner notes grandiosely proclaim, 'a national treasure whose music taps into an American psyche hungry for spiritual satisfaction.' His Symphony No. 8 certainly satisfies musically and intellectually (though its spiritual qualities might be less obvious) and is an extremely fine, tersely muscular work that, for a construction on 12-tone serial lines, falls remarkably easily on the ear.

The first of the two movements, a closely argued, energetic sonata-allegro, has occasional echoes of Hindemith; the second, a theme with variations and double fugue, combines contrapuntal techniques of awesome complexity with an emotionally charged, post-romantic style reminiscent of Schoenberg.

It's tremendously satisfying, uplifting music, very well played and recorded, that you'll want to hear more than once to appreciate fully.

Not so the rest of the disc. Suite from the Ballet TOM consists of a dozen short numbers derived from an unperformed ballet based on Uncle Tom's Cabin (colourful, tuneful and quite unmemorable), while This Sacred Ground, a setting if Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address for solo baritone, children's choirs and chorus (maudlin patriotism at its most squirmy) I found almost impossible to listen to at all.

HHH To buy this CD for pounds 4.99, inc p&p, call our Music Line on 01634832789
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 22, 2004
Words:275
Previous Article:Culture; Cd Reviews: History in a bargain basement; Wagner: Tristan und Isolde -Furtwangler, Philharmonia, etc (Naxos Historical 8.110321 -24).
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