The American composer David Maslanka (born August 30th, 1943) is yet another musical unsung-hero and a great one at that. I discovered his music back in 1997 when I bought a disc, also on Albany Records, called "When Angels Speak" with the Manhattan Wind Quintet. The disc features music by three other composers, but it was Maslanka's "Quintet No. 2 for Winds" that made an immediate and lasting impression. I immediately moved on to the fantastic series, yet again on Albany (as with Arnold Rosner, Albany has been Maslanka's strongest champion) of Maslanka's beautiful and powerful Wind Symphonies, of which there are eight currently. The Symphony No. 1 is for orchestra, and if I'm correct it is still unrecorded. -I would love to be incorrect; if anyone knows of, or better yet has any recorded performance of it, do let me know!!
Maslanka's Symphony No. 7 is a big-boned, exciting work (and it may surprise with it's piano introduction-no, you have not been dropped in the middle of a Rachmaninov piece, I assure you! The piano continues to play an important role in the first two movements). Truly this symphony is an absolute knockout in my opinion, start to finish. The use of percussion too is magical, and in the final movement quite mysteriously so: the usage of bells and xylophone in the tranquil first half of the movement reminds me of Hovhaness (particularly AH's "Star Dawn", which is indeed a symphony for winds as well) and it's a most ethereal, almost zen-like "break" that the composer allows us, after the wonderfully kinetic sonic beating we experience in the prior movement (Mvt 3 - "Very Fast") This, ladies and gentlemen, is fantastic music-making.
Here's a brief bio on Maslanka taken from his own site:
David Maslanka was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1943. He attended the Oberlin College Conservatory where he studied composition with Joseph Wood. He spent a year at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and did masters and doctoral study in composition at Michigan State University where his principal teacher was H. Owen Reed.
Maslanka’s music for winds has become especially well known. Among his more than 130 works are forty pieces for wind ensemble, including seven symphonies, fifteen concertos, a Mass, and many concert pieces. His chamber music includes four wind quintets, five saxophone quartets, and many works for solo instrument and piano. In addition, he has written a variety of orchestral and choral pieces.
David Maslanka’s compositions are published by Maslanka Press, Carl Fischer, Kjos Music, Marimba Productions, and OU Percussion Press. They have been recorded on Albany, Reference Recordings, BIS (Sweden), Naxos, Cambria, CRI, Mark, Novisse, AUR, Cafua (Japan), Brain Music (Japan), Barking Dog, and Klavier labels. He has served on the faculties of the State University of New York at Geneseo, Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, and Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York, and since 1990 has been a freelance composer. He now lives in Missoula, Montana. David Maslanka is a member of ASCAP.
Samuel Zyman's "Cycles" and Matthew Halper's Concerto for Flute and Wind Ensemble were both nice surprises, making this disc an all-around gem. My arm is telling me to stop typing (for those of you perhaps visiting for the first time, I'm not crazy -well, the diagnosis remains unclear- anyhow I do not hold conversations with my limbs - rather, I have an injury and cannot use my left arm/hand for too long) unfortunately, but I'm including booklet notes. Strangely all info on Maslanka and his Symphony No. 7 are missing here, I didn't make this poorly scanned file. I will type out the missing notes myself when I can..