America's multi-faceted and prolific composer Diamond composed Rounds in 1944, and it continues to be his most "popular" piece in much the way that Samuel Barber's early Adagio (likewise for strings) remains his most "popular." Diamond was born five years later than Barber, who followed Howard Hanson, Walter Piston, Virgil Thomson, and Aaron Copland by a decade or more. As they say in film circles, that generation "wrapped" in 1918 with Leonard Bernstein's birth.
For a 1983 Nonesuch recording of Rounds by Gerard Schwarz, the latest and most comprehensive champion of David Diamond's music, the composer wrote the following: "Rounds for String Orchestra was commissioned by Dimitri Mitropoulos and composed in June and July 1944, in New York City; [full scoring] was completed at Rhinebeck, New York. Almost all of the new music Mitropoulos had been performing at the time was of the 12-note school, and he was undergoing depression and doubts as to the quality of melancholia in this music.... Write me a happy work. These are distressing times, most of the difficult music I play is distressing. Make me happy." The result was this work, which The New York Times critic, Olin Downes, in his review of a Koussevitzky's performance with the Boston Symphony called "admirably fashioned, joyous and vernal...there is laughter in the music. And no waste notes!" The two outer Allegro movements enclose a slow movement of lyric intensity. Canonic and fugal devices of imitation control the three movements, which are played without pause. The work was first performed by Mitropoulos on November 24, 1944, with the Minneapolis [today Minnesota] Symphony, then repeated by other orchestras. Critical and public success when Koussevitzky performed it on tour encouraged further performances by major orchestras under Artur Rodzinski, George Szell, Bernstein, Fritz Reiner, Max Rudolf, Aaron Copland, and abroad as well. It remained one of his most frequently performed works. Rounds received a special citation by the New York Music Critics' Circle in 1945.