- Friday, January 28 - 8:00 PM - Straz Center, Tampa
- Saturday, January 29 - 8:00 PM - Mahaffey Theater, St. Pete
- Sunday, January 30 - 7:30 PM - Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater
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The Straz Center has additional requirements related to performances at their hall. For full details, click here.
About "A Silence Haunts Me"
"A masterpiece." - Dale Warland
It was the first time he had read the famous text, which is almost equal parts medical history (including Beethoven’s first admission to his brothers that he was going deaf), last will and testament, suicide note, letter of forgiveness, and prayer of hope. Runestad was flabbergasted and found himself thinking about Beethoven, about loss, and about the tragedy of one of the greatest musicians of all time losing his hearing. Beethoven put it this way, “Ah, how could I possibly admit an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than others, a sense which I once possessed in the highest perfection, a perfection such as few in my profession enjoy or ever have enjoyed.”
When the American Choral Directors Association offered the Raymond C. Brock Commission to Runestad for the 2019 National Conference, he took many months to settle on a topic, finally deciding on setting Beethoven’s words. While researching Beethoven’s output around the time of the letter, Runestad discovered that Beethoven wrote a ballet, Creatures of Prometheus, just a year before penning his testament. “Beethoven must have put himself into Prometheus’ mindset to embody the story,” Runestad noted. “Just as Prometheus gifted humankind with fire and was punished for eternity, so did Beethoven gift the fire of his music while fighting his deafness, an impending silence. What an absolutely devastating yet inspiring account of the power of the human spirit. In the moment of his loss —when he wrote the Heiligenstadt Testament — he had no idea how profound his legacy would be” (“legacy” being one of the themes of this ACDA’s anniversary conference).
Because of the length of the letter, a verbatim setting was impractical; Runestad once again turned to his friend and frequent collaborator, Todd Boss, to help. Boss’s poem, entitled A Silence Haunts Me – After Beethoven’s Heiligenstadt Testament creates a scena — a monologue in Beethoven’s voice for choir. The poem is both familiar and intimate; Boss has taken the fundamentals of Beethoven’s letter and spun it into a libretto that places the reader/listener into the same small, rented room as one of the most towering figures of the Romantic Era.
To those words, Runestad has brought his full array of dramatic understanding and compositional skill; A Silence Haunts Me sounds more like a self-contained monologue from an opera than a traditional choral piece. Runestad, who has published three operas to date, shows his flair for melding music with text even more dramatically than in familiar settings like Let My Love Be Heard and Please Stay. He sets the poetry with an intense, emotional directness and uses some of Beethoven’s own musical ideas to provide context. Stitched into the work are hints at familiar themes from the Moonlight Sonata, the 3rd, 6th, and 9th Symphonies, and Creatures of Prometheus, but they are, in Runestad’s words, “filtered through a hazy, frustrated, and defeated state of being.”
In wrestling with Beethoven, with legacy, and with loss, Runestad has done what he does best—written a score where the poetry creates the form, where the text drives the rhythm, where the melody supports the emotional content, and where the natural sounding vocal lines, arresting harmony, and idiomatic accompaniment — in this case, piano in honor of Beethoven — come together to offer the audience an original, engaging, thoughtful, and passionate work of choral art.
Program note by Dr. Jonathan Talberg