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Diamond, David: Symphony Number 1; Violin Concerto Number 2; The Enormous Room.

The Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz conducting, Ilkka Talvi, violin. Recorded in 1991 and 1992, at the Seattle Opera House. Engineer: John Eargle. 71+ minutes. Naxos 8.559157.

Diamond, like Roy Harris, Samuel Barber, Howard Hanson, William Schuman, and Walter Piston, is a modern Romantic composer who is working in a post-Romantic era. It is an era dominated by "academic" music, which is anything but in the Romantic tradition. (Note that I am here talking about "serious" music, as opposed to rock country, rap, jazz, etc., which, let's face it, have been the dominant music of our particular age for decades.) Consequently, Diamond and the others in the neo-Romantic school have been dismissed by some as out of touch with musical reality. I will leave it to others to determine if this is the case with each of these composers, but what we have on this disc is anything but musically vapid.

To be truthful, I have reviewed this material before (in my book The Digital Audio Music List, published by A-R Editions back in 1999), although when I did so it was as Delos DE 3119. (This Delos release is no longer available as a new recording.) It appears that Naxos has picked up the reproduction rights as part of its "American Classics" series, and so we have what is basically a 2003 reissue of material that was recorded over a decade earlier.

As I said in my earlier analysis, "the symphonic parts of this recording are remarkably smooth and clean, with a wide, deep, and spacious soundstage." The violin concerto did then and still does have a bit of a problem with the solo instrument sounding a tad larger and closer up than what we would have with a live performance. With smaller playback systems this might work to good effect, but with larger ones that have bigger main speakers located some distance apart the opposite might be true. Whatever the listener might think, the result is maybe a front-row-center sound, with clarity superior to what you would get at a lot of live performances.

While in my previous review I noted that Dolby Pro Logic did not solve the violin size problem, the newer Dolby Pro Logic II (music) technology available in my Yamaha RX-Z1 receiver most certainly did, at least with the stage-width setting pegged at the number three position. As a result the instrument had a better size and distance relationship with the ensemble. The processor's Classical/Opera mode also worked well, as did its smaller concert-hall simulations. I also got similar results with the two other Yamaha DSP units in my two other systems. There are times when the standard hall simulations will work to make a slightly forward solo instrument sound downright elephantine, but that was not the case here.

Note that in my book I also previously reviewed another equally good Delos recording (DE 3103), containing Diamond's Symphony Number 3, Psalm, and Kaddish, and although no longer available from Delos it is also now available on the Naxos label (8.559155). I have not reviewed the Naxos reissue, but it should be as good as the Delos. Interestingly, the Delos release also contained Diamond's Romeo and Juliet, but that piece has been left off of the Naxos reissue. As with the above disc, this one was engineered by John Eargle.
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Title Annotation:David Diamond: Symphony Number 1; Violin Concerto Number 2
Publication:Sensible Sound
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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