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Diamond, David (1915-2005)  
 
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Diamond interpreted that remark as a veiled allusion to his homosexuality and a forewarning of the rejection he was about to receive. His response was to return to Paris for more composition study.

Success in New York

With war clouds on the horizon in 1939, Diamond returned to New York and embarked on what would prove to be the most celebrated period of his career. The New York Philharmonic under conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos premiered his First Symphony in 1941 when he was 26, and his compositions were championed and introduced by prominent and influential conductors, including Leopold Stokowski, Pierre Monteux, Serge Koussevitzky, and Leonard Bernstein.

Sponsor Message.

In 1944, with the fear, tensions, and privations of World War II uppermost on everyone's mind, Mitropoulos commissioned a work with the request, "These are distressing times. Most of the difficult music I play is distressing. Make me happy."

In response, Diamond composed his Rounds for Strings (1944), about which New York Times music critic Olin Downs commented, "There is laughter in the music and no waste notes." The piece became an audience favorite.

A Reputation for Being Difficult

Diamond often questioned why, out of all of his enormous output, Rounds for Strings had to be his best-known work and stand above his other pieces. His complaint about this triumph, whether justified or not, did not earn much sympathy, especially from those who had never had a real success themselves.

Hence, Diamond began to be seen as overly self-involved in some circles. Indeed, his strong personality, frankness, and occasionally erratic behavior all combined to gain him a reputation for being difficult.

Sensitive and vulnerable to criticism, Diamond was sometimes volatile, often blunt, and, once, famously violent. On being ejected from a 1943 rehearsal of his Second Symphony by the New York Philharmonic's music director Artur Rodzinski, Diamond retired for a few drinks at the Russian Tea Room and, when Rodzinski entered, punched him in the nose. This incident led Aaron Copland, Bernstein, and others to organize a fund so that Diamond could begin psychoanalysis.

His friends' concerns about anger management did not silence the composer, however. He himself has admitted, "I was a highly emotional young man, very honest in my behavior, and I would say things in public that would cause a scene between me and, for instance, a conductor." His sharp tongue and strong opinions made him enemies then and in the future.

Fall from Critical Favor

Although Diamond's work was being programmed regularly by leading orchestras in the 1940s, he had by no means secured financial success. He had to play violin in the Hit Parade radio orchestra and for Broadway shows to make ends meet.

Another development in the classical music scene that affected Diamond's career was the advent and rise of serialism, based on repeated 12-tone patterns, atonal music, and unstructured aleatoric music, like that of John Cage. Diamond's neoclassical style, which combined a melodic line with sharply syncopated rhythms in an impeccably orchestrated and complex classical musical structure, was dismissed as old-fashioned by this group of ambitious newcomers, who would dominate classical music composition from the 1950s to about 1980.

Diamond also blamed anti-Semitism and for his fall from critical favor.

Exile from the United States and Return

In 1951, Diamond was appointed Fulbright professor at the University of Rome. In Italy, he was able to escape the nasty infighting of the New York classical music world for a while.

Upon a return visit to the United States, however, he was served a subpoena by the House Un-American Activities Committee, a consequence of Diamond's earlier interest in communism. Refusing to honor the subpoena, he chose to return to Italy. He settled in Florence and remained there until 1965.

One fascinating non-musical byproduct of his years of exile is the key role he played in the first staging of Edward Albee's The Zoo Story. While living in Italy, Diamond read the script of Albee's one-act play that many New York producers had turned down. He was enthusiastic and forwarded the script to a friend, German actor Pinkas Braun. Braun then arranged for the world premiere in Berlin (and in German) on September 28, 1959 of this landmark in American theatrical history.

Teaching Career

When Diamond returned to the United States in 1965, he became head of the composition department at the Manhattan School of Music. He remained in the position until 1967.

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