The Chicago Composers Orchestra, Wicker Park Choral Singers, conductor Allen Tinkham, and pianist Yana Reznik gave a powerful performance of “Dreams of the Fallen” in Chicago, IL. The Chicago Tribune covered the event with a glowing review:

Born in Rockford, Ill., and currently living in Minneapolis, Runestad based his 25-minute piece on texts by the Iraq War veteran and poet Brian Turner. His bullet-borne language represents a soldier’s interior conflicts, on and off the battlefield. Runestad’s music gathers their staccato cadences in what he calls “a ceremony addressing the life-changing experiences of war.”

Besides serving as a linking device between the three sections, the piano becomes a character in the narrative, perhaps the soldier himself, devastated by all that he witnesses on the battlefield but determined, as the framing text (from Turner’s book “Wading Out”) says, to “come out on the other side,” provided he can “walk far enough and long enough.”

The piano’s pensive, agitated volleys of chords and torrential figuration – expertly taken by Reznik – are incorporated into a choral-orchestral progression from violent darkness to a quiet acceptance bathed in luminosity. Solo voices climb upward at the end, suggesting without sentimentality that mankind might just learn how to rise above its self-destructiveness, one of these days.

Runestad writes beautifully for massed voices, in an accessible but never New Age-y tonal idiom that sometimes recalls that of Eric Whitacre and Morten Lauridsen but remains idiosyncratically his own. No wonder he’s considered one of the best of the younger American choral composers. His writing for orchestra is equally accomplished. He was present to share in the audience’s warm applause.

Read the full review here.