BWW Previews: New York Premiere of Jake Runestad's DREAMS OF THE FALLEN at Carnegie Hall
For centuries, the concept of war, its heroic figures and its aftermath have inspired many a great composer from Beethoven to Prokofiev to Glass. However, war in the 21st century has been another subject altogether. All of the romance has been stripped away by 24 hour news networks and reporters embedded in the front lines. It is through this unique new prism that Jake Runestad views the experience of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in his epic music-drama "Dreams of the Fallen."
On Saturday, November 19th, the mighty Park Avenue Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Maestro David Bernard with tackle the epic work on the stage of Carnegie Hall. For the evening, Mr. Bernard has assembled a veritable army of choruses to perform the work and secured the services of the wonderful pianist, Jeffrey Biegel. Biegel was actually instrumental in the creation and development of the piece from the start. Biegel, who has made a small industry of the commissioning and creation of new orchestral works, had been searching for a new piece to reach a younger audience. After a chance meeting with Runestad, he knew he had found the right composer.
Runestad explained that after having read the poetry of Brian Turner, who served in the infantry in Iraq as part of a Stryker brigade, he decided he wanted to compose a work honoring veterans. The choral parts are drawn directly from Turner's poetry. According to Biegel: "what we envisioned was solo piano providing inner voice of the soldier. The orchestra would provide the context, the landscape of war."
"What makes his take on the theater of war different is this perspective, told through the eyes of one soldier but representing all. It does not shy away from the brutality and violence of war," said Bernard. The piece does not take the mile-high view of so many other war-inspired works, which are laced and laden with patriotic zeal and celebrate great victories and the generals who presided over them. Rather, Mr. Runestad has made an intensely personal piece, which probes deeply into the psyche of the soldier in three separate phases of his service.
The work is nothing short of a modern masterpiece and its Carnegie Hall premiere is big news in the classical world and good news for fans of new classical and orchestral music. Park Avenue Chamber Orchestra continues to take risks in its programming and those risks have paid great dividends to their audiences. This partnership, with pianist Jeffrey Biegel, could not be more ideal as Biegel has also made a career of taking musical risks and delivering some of the most interesting music and some of the most riveting performance on the classical scene today.
David Bernard has chosen to pair the work with nothing less than Beethoven's monumental 9th symphony. "I really thought that as the Runestad work deals with the horrors of war and death, I wanted to pair with a work that is the very quintessential embracing of life. The pieces also parallel each other in the sense that they both celebrate brotherhood; the brotherhood of soldiers, and the brotherhood of man."
It will be an epic affair as Bernard haS Marshalled together The Combined forces of the West Point Glee Club, the New Amsterdam Singers, the Young New Yorkers Chorus to create a 200-voice chorus - possibly the largest ever on the stage of Carnegie for such a performance. Soprano Kristin Sampson, Alto Edith Dowd, Tenor Cameron Schutza, and Bass David Leigh will be the evening's soloists.
"I was especially excited and somewhat concerned about the participation of the West Point Glee Club because the material is so close to them and their own experiences," said Bernard. "But when I played the score for them, they were completely blown away and even anxious to a part of the concert. It was extraordinary."
In honor of Veterans' Day this past week, the PACS will be honoring the NYC Department of Veterans' Services, the newly created New York City agency that is dedicated to improving the lives of New York City veterans and their families.
It promises to be an extraordinary evening! Certainly, the event of the young concert season so far. The concert is almost sold out but a few tickets remain. Go get them!
Classical Editor in Chief