David Diamond

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Monday, July 9, 2018

Today marks the anniversary of the birth of the American composer David Diamond, born in Rochester, New York, on July 9, 1915, to Austrian and Polish immigrants. His father was a carpenter and his mother a dressmaker. When a little boy, Diamond taught himself violin and started composing tunes. In the 1930s, he studied composition with Howard Hanson at the Eastman School of Music and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.

In the 40s and 50s, Diamond’s music was commissioned and performed by major American orchestras and conductors, but even so, in leaner periods, Diamond would support himself by playing violin in Broadway pit bands.

Among Diamond’s major works are eleven symphonies. His neo-classical style, like that of other mid-20th-century mainstream American composers of symphonies like Howard Hanson and Walter Piston, fell out of favor somewhat by the 1960s, when serial composers became more fashionable with critics.

It’s ironic that in 1949 when Diamond asked Arnold Schoenberg for lessons in the serial method Schoenberg refused, reportedly saying, "Why do you want to do that? You're a young Bruckner. Besides, I never meant [my method] for everybody."

Fashionable or not, Diamond did have some champions, including conductor Gerard Schwarz, who made fine recordings of Diamond symphonies with the Seattle Symphony. In 1995, Diamond was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton.

On June 13, 2005, a few weeks shy of his 90th birthday, Diamond died at his home in Brighton, New York.