Lamentation, for Oboe, String Orchestra, and Three Angels: Arne Running

Arne Running’s 1991 Program notes for “Lamentation”

When James Freeman asked me to write a piece for Orchestra 2001, the request came at a time when I was experiencing considerable distress.  An event had recently occurred in my life which created intense inner turmoil.  There are many tools a person can use to work through a personal crisis: the composing of “Lamentation”  became one such tool for me.

In “Lamentation,” I have tried to express sorrow – sorrow born of spiritual conflict and loss of illusion.  The music also contains passages representing violent anger.  (Of all the Italian expression markings appearing in the score, it is the word  violento which recurs most frequently – a total of twelve times .

The music begins quietly, and the first section works towards a violent climax. The middle section is a dialogue between Three Angels (represented by three trumpets) and an opposing spiritual force (represented by the low strings). The section reaches a climax which is both triumphant and violent, after which there is a reappearance of the quiet music heard at the very beginning.  The work concludes with a brief, gentle “hymn” – and finally, quiet acceptance of life’s unresolvable mystery. – Arne Running


James Freeman’s story of Arne Running and “Lamentation”

“Arne Running was a Philadelphia treasure.  As composer, conductor, clarinetist, and human being, he was truly legendary.  One of the finest musicians I’ve ever known, Arne was perpetually – almost relentlessly –  working on improving all his musical skills.  Testing clarinet reeds, mouthpieces, instruments, new fingerings, embouchures, were unceasing ongoing pursuits. But he was continually challenging every other aspect of his musical being as well, always with an aim to being an even more perfect and skilled artist. He loved music with all his heart and was never satisfied with just being a terrific and much admired clarinetist, composer, conductor.  There was always a higher plateau he felt he needed to reach.  He provided a model for all of us to follow, and I think everyone who knew him has benefitted enormously from that model and from knowing this immensely talented and humble man.

Dorothy and I had known Arne very slightly when we were all students in Boston. It was a great joy for us to become close friends with him once we were together in Philadelphia. When we saw Arne and Nancy’s devotion to their beloved Springer Spaniel Sam while they visited us at home, we realized how much they reflected our own feelings for our new assortment of English Cocker Spaniel puppies, and that bond became even closer.

In 1991 I asked Arne to write a new piece for Orchestra 2001, then in only its third year of existence.  The result (which he dedicated to Dorothy and me) was  “Lamentation for Oboe, String Orchestra, and Three Angels.”  (The angels become three trumpets in the piece itself.)  We premiered the work in October of that year with the composer conducting.  I think it is an immensely powerful and moving masterpiece.  Said the Welcomat’s music critic Tom Purdom, “Arne Running’s brand-new Lamentation . . . is a series of darkly beautiful musical gestures unified by a strong personal emotion.  The heart of Running’s Lamentation is a lengthy oboe solo – beautifully played by Dorothy Freeman – that’s surrounded by muted trumpets, somber cello interludes and tender ultra-high melodies for the first violin.”

Curiously, Arne never listed the piece among his works on his website.  Also, we do not know of any later performances of the piece.  I can only speculate that the “Lamentation” was so personal  an expression of  dismay and grief,  for whatever reason,  that  he did not want it to circulate.  There is a mystery here that we may never be able to decipher.

About a year ago, I asked Arne if he would write a new 5-8 minute piece for string orchestra for the Chamber Orchestra FIRST EDITIONS concerts coming up in September 2016.  Arne was ill at that time but he still hoped he would be able to  complete the work.  He sent me a small handful of measures during the winter but it was not enough to give one an idea of what the piece might eventually become.  Then, sadly,  there was no more. Arne passed away in March 2016.    We are honored to revisit the “Lamentation” from 1991, twenty-five years later, in order to replace what I am sure would have been a wonderful new piece. We think there could not be a more appropriate replacement and we dedicate this performance to Arne’s memory.” – James Freeman

%d bloggers like this: