For this piece, I was asked to write a composition that reflects both an Olympic-related inspiration and the subject matter associated with the horrific event known as Kristallnacht, a riot prior to World War II that brought the racism of the Third Reich into public view. What ties these themes together? I have no clear answer. But, while working on the piece, this phrase came to mind: “and must we not return and run?” It is a quotation from Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It expresses the idea of eternal return; what we do in this moment echoes eternally both in our own lives and in the lives of others. Certainly, what happened on “the night of broken glass” left a deep mark on our modern world-view. Perhaps we might also remember the 1936 Olympic performance of Jesse Owens – an American black sprinter who shattered the idea of the “Ubermensch” (interpreted in Owens’ time as the “superior race”) by winning four gold medals in a single day. This is the starting point for the music in Return and Run – Olympic themes: themes of triumph and awesome human achievement alongside the sobering acknowledgement of a deeply rooted social injustice.
“Fantastic piece . . . sign of a fine young composer on his mettle.”
– Bramwell Tovey