Friday, December 11, 2015

David Maslanka - Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble - Concerto for Marimba and Band - Joseph Lulloff, Alto Saxophone - Drew Lang, Marimba - University of Arizona Wind Ensemble - Albany Records 2000

Here are two great concertos by David Maslanka. A huge part of the appeal of Maslanka's music I think is that it is highly accessible while at the same time it inhabits an atypical, exciting sound-world that is wholly the composer's. His is a pen that is always full of surprises!

Cover art is actually by Maslanka, his "Self Portrait"

Here are the program notes by the composer:

Concerto for Alto Saxophone & Wind Ensemble

This concerto turned out to be a good deal larger than I would reasonably want. As I got into the composing, the ideas became insistent: none of them would be left out! The format of Songs and Interludes arises from my other recent works for saxophones (“Mountain Roads” and “Song Book”) and suggests a music that is more intimate than symphonic. There is a strong spiritual overtone with quotes from Bach chorales, and from my own works “Hell's Gate” and “Mass.” A story is being hinted at which has the Crucifixion right smack in the middle — the climax of the third movement quotes the “Crucifixus” from the “Mass.” I don't know what the story is, only that it wants to be music and not words.

I. Song: “Fire in the Earth”

Walking through a Montana field on a brilliant late Fall day, three images came in rapid succession: a distant row of red plant stems caught by the morning sun, snow on the surrounding high mountains, green grass at my feet. The following poetic image came:

Fire in the earth

Snow in the Heavens

New green grass in the middle of November

This is a quiet, emotional music — sometimes not so quiet — contained by a very simple song form.

II. Interlude: “Bright Window, Your Night is Full of Stars”

“Bright Window” is the soprano song right before the Credo in my “Mass.” I have transcribed it whole as a beautiful song for the solo saxophone. The words of the original song reach out in prayer to the Holy Mother and ask for a personal connection with all there is. This movement is dedicated to the memory of Joseph Christensen, Director of Bands at Iowa State University, whose untimely death was a shock to his many friends.

III. Song: “Dear Jesus, what have you DONE?!”

This music grows out of the chorale “Herzliebste Jesu, was hast du verbrocken” (“Dearest Jesus, what law did you break”). The chorale is the starting point for a huge upsurge of powerful emotion, cresting with the climax of the “Crucifixus” from my setting of the Mass.

Dear Jesus, what have you DONE to get yourself crucified?...

And then you drag the rest of us up there with you!!

IV. Interlude: “Starry Night”

“Starry Night” is not a quiet night! There is both mystery and playfulness in this music, and playfulness finally wins out, erupting into an extended dance episode with a very Baroque feel. Of all the movements, this one is most nearly a scherzo.

V. Song: “Mortal, have you seen this?”

In the Book of Ezekiel, The prophet has a vision of a man “whose appearance shone like bronze.” The “Bronze Man” shows him the Holy City. He then leads him into a deep and very wide river that cannot be crossed, and says “Mortal, have you seen this?” Where the river enters the sea the water becomes fresh; everything will live where the river goes; trees along the river will not wither, their fruit will be for food, their leaves for healing.

This movement is an echo of the third. It opens and closes with what has been called the “coronation” music from my composition “Hell's Gate” — in this case played very softly and inwardly.

Concerto for Marimba and Band

This concerto could easily be subtitled `rhapsody' or `fantasy' because of its meditative and free-flowing quality. It is easy to describe the overall shape — an extended slow to moderate opening section, an explosive fast section, a quiet closing section — but less easy to describe the internal working of the piece. I have been an observer of nature for many years. I am fascinated with the “is-ness” of nature. The earth, the sky, the variety of growing things, water — all are constants. They stay the same, but are continuously varied with the time of day, the weather, the changing seasons. I have tried in my concerto to reflect the inner working of na-tural systems, not to make nature sounds as in a tone poem, but to find a musical structure that parallels the natural flow.

The result in this piece harks back more than 20 years to a title I had thought of but never used. The title is ”Melodia” — a collection of melodies. My concerto is a continuous exposition of a large number of melodies, all growing out of a single impulse. There is no development in the Classical sense, but rather a flowing movement, a meditation which travels quietly, and sometimes forcefully from thought to thought, often extremely simple, with pleasure taken in individual colors, shapes, and combinations as they appear and dissolve. Meditations on nature become for me, ecstatic visions of color, light and force. All the musical elements — rhythm, melody, harmony, instrumental colors and textures — are all alive for me in the same way.

I am not a percussionist, but it has come to me to write percussion music. This is my fifth piece for marimba and my second marimba concerto. The marimba is a superior mood instrument. Over the years it has allowed me to find and give shape to parts of myself that could not be expressed in other terms.

-David Maslanka


Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble

I. Song: “Fire in the Earth” [9:20]

II. Interlude: “Bright Window, Your Night is Full of Stars” [5:06]

III. Song: “Dear Jesus, what have you DONE!?” [9:05]

IV. Interlude: “Starry Night” [10:24]

V. Song: “Mortal, have you seen this?” [9:19]

Joseph Lulloff, saxophone

6) Concerto for Marimba and Band [19:34]

Drew Lang, marimba



Anonymous said...

Thanks. I like Maslanka's works, and have some of his CDs. I may have even shared some a while ago. Looking forward to his wind works particularly!


Tzadik said...

Hi Piterets, how are you friend? If you are looking forward to his wind pieces you are in luck, he has written so very much for wind ensembles! -I have holes in my Maslanka collection, do you think your shares/links @ avax might still be active? Perhaps you have a few that I do not.