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Name of Work

Diamond, David (1915-2005)
Chaconne for violin and piano



Nov 19, 1995

Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Deborah Sobol, Piano

Nov 20, 1995

Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Deborah Sobol, Piano

DIAMOND - Chaconne for Violin and Piano

Composed in 1948

David Diamond, celebrating his 80th birthday this year, is a composer who has made his mark in a wide variety of musical endeavors, with major contributions to the repertory of American music in the realms of stage, symphonic and chamber scores. He has also been active as a violinist, a teacher and an articulate writer on the subject of his own works and on the craft of composition in general. Impatient with rigid "methods" of music-making, and with trendiness of any sort, he has forged his own style, always speaking in his own voice. He values individuality, independence and professionalism over abstract theories. In the course of a long life in music he has encountered numerous artistic schools of thought, and his works reflect his response to them, but always in, and on, his own terms.

The Chicago Chamber Musicians recently released a CD containing five Diamond works for various combinations of winds, strings and piano. (Three of the pieces had never been recorded before.) The CD reflects the broad scope of the composer's creative imagination. It includes works in a neo-Classical vein, stemming from the time he spent in Paris in the 1930s, when young American musicians were studying composition techniques with Nadia Boulanger and hearing the music of Stravinsky and of Poulenc. It also contains a piece in serial style, a Wind Quintet from the 1950s, one of his responses to a meeting in 1948 with Arnold Schoenberg, originator of the "system of composition with 12 tones."

Like other 20th-century composers (Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Poulenc, among them). Diamond is fond of retaining traditional forms established during the Baroque and Classical eras, while Grafting the content for these structures — the themes, harmonies and rhythms—out of wholly contemporary material. The Chaconne for violin and piano takes its name from Baroque music; a chaconne, for Bach and Handel, was a continuous set of variations on a basic melodic-harmonic pattern. Diamond writes that his Chaconne "was composed in 1948 on commission from the violinist Jean Westbrook. She performed the work for the first time on her debut Town Hall (New York City) program, with Eugene Helmer the pianist, on October 20th, 1949. The entire work is structured around the wide leaping theme of the opening, and variations on the long-lined melody heard immediately after."

The first theme involves large-spaced intervals of seventh, octave and ninth. Even more important in the on flowing variations that constitute the work is the violin's lyrical second theme, supported with piano chords. Thereafter, violin and piano lines are interwoven in imitative counterpoint. There are very few pauses in the Chaconne, few interruptions in its forward progression, though there are numerous tempo changes, with the pace and intensity of the melodic and rhythmic lines speeding up and slowing down in frequent succession. Both instruments explore their ranges to the full; the violin varies its basically sustained texture with episodes of pizzicato, tremolo, double stops and octaves. The string player also has a brief cadenza-like solo before the work's rapid, upbeat conclusion.

Program Notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Performed November 19 & 20, 1995

Performance Audio