DIAMOND: Piano Trio (1951). Quartet for Piano and Strings (1936; rev. 1967).
Trio in G major for Strings (1937).
From Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony we've had six CDs to date of David Diamond's orchestral music (the world premiere of his 10th Symphony is scheduled there for July 2000, during inaugural concerts featuring a new organ in Benaroya Hall, which was completed in 1998). But his chamber music is less amply documented, despite its abundance and a consistent diatonic-dissonant vocabulary that marks all of the mature music. This disc holds more than an hour's worth, and while the material is so concentrated, so expressively intense that you may want to listen to a piece at a time -- all three in one session can be fatiguing -- it is characteristic of a composer (b. 1915) second only in longevity, since the death on June 21 of Alan Hovhaness, to Elliott Carter, who is five years his senior.
Two of the three pieces are from Diamond's precocious, heart-on-sleeve early 20s, although the Piano Quartet of 1936 was revised 31 years later. Formally, its six movements begin with an "Intrada" and include two Ritornellos -- strong stuff over a 25-minute stretch. The three-movement String Trio, composed a year later, is jollier and briefer but no less substantial. The 1951 Piano Trio is my own favorite piece here, four movements lasting 25 minutes, in no small part because this performance is so invigorating. Ralph Votapek's piano is both the chassis and the engine. His career was midwest-oriented before winning the Naumberg Award and then the Gold Medal in the first Cliburn International Competition; thereafter he became a world traveler, especially cherished in Latin America. His three distaff colleagues are based at the University of Notre Dame, where the Trio was established in 1989, and are worthy partners in this enterprise on Diamond's behalf.
The String Trio was recorded four years ago in South Bend, near the UND campus, the two works with piano in the WFMT Studios at Chicago in the early summer of 1998. The sound throughout is seamless and full-bodied. The only demurrer are minimalist notes about the music itself.