David Diamond was awarded the Edward MacDowell Medal in in 1991.
Writing music by the age of seven, New Yorker David Diamond (1915-2005) was an early musical prodigy. He enrolled at the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1927 and the Eastman School of Music in 1930, where he studied composition and violin. By 1936, Diamond had been commissioned to compose the music for Tom, a ballet choreographed by Leonide Massine. While the ballet was never performed in full, Diamond’s First Orchestral Suite
received a much acclaimed premiere in 1985.
In 1937 while studying at Fontainebleau in Paris, Diamond won the Julliard Publication Award for a Psalm written with Igor Stravinsky, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work in 1938. In the following decade, Diamond was honored with a second Guggenheim Fellowship, the Prix de Rome, a commission from Dmitri Mitropoulos (resulting in the popular Rounds for String Orchestra), and a National Academy of Arts and Letters grant. Notable works during this time include Concerto for Two Solo Pianos (1942), String Quartet No. 2 (1943), String Quartet No. 3 (1946), and String Quartet No. 4 (1951), which was nominated for a 1965 Grammy award.
From 1951 to 1965, Diamond lived and worked in Florence, Italy as a Fulbright professor. Upon his return to the United States, he taught at the Manhattan School of Music and The Julliard School, and continued writing and conducting orchestral and vocal music. Although Diamond’s music fell out of favor for several decades, its renewed interest in the 1980's resulted in his being awarded significant honors, including the 1986 William Schuman Lifetime Achievement Award, the 1991 Gold Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the American National Medal of the Arts in 1995.
Just a few weeks after receiving the Julliard Medal at the 100th commencement ceremony of The Julliard School, where he worked for more than 20 years, Diamond died in Rochester, New York.
Diamond was openly gay long before it was socially acceptable, and believed his career was slowed by homophobia and antisemitism. According to an obituary in The Guardian however, "He enjoyed enormous success in the 1940s and early '50s with champions that included Koussevitzky, Bernstein, Munch, Ormandy and Mitropoulos but, in the 1960s and '70s, the serial and modernist schools pushed him into the shadows."
Portrait by Louis Ouzer